Japan's Elderly Turn to Lives of Violent Crime

The economic pinch making it harder to make ends meet and you know what that means. Crime is back in vogue! And while bad people are doing bad things all over the globe, it's Japan's senior community that is causing the most ruckus.

Burglaries have seen an uptick in many areas of the United States. Drug gangs are battling it out in unexpected places like Copenhagen and the Arizona desert. White-collar financiers are pocketing as much loot as possible before their firms go belly-up. But one of the more curious crimes waves is occurring among Japan's senior citizens, who are confronting an increasingly weak social welfare state by resorting to violence.

Tokyo announced a series of initiatives to balance the national budget that has put seniors on edge. The government plans to cut $2.3 billion in public funding for national health which is raising drug costs for seniors significantly, thereby shrinking once solid pensions. There is also a growing sense of social isolation among the elderly who worry their needs will neither be addressed by the government nor their relatives.

All of this has led to 18.9 percent of all crimes in 2008 being committed by individuals over 60. Shoplifting is the most common problem but violent crime has seen an uptick as well with one 79-year old woman knifing passengers near a Tokyo rail station last year.

CEO of the American Association of Retired People Bill Novelli once told Big Think you can judge a society by how it takes care of its youth and how it takes care of its elderly. This does not bode well for Japan or many developed nations that are considering shrinking their social welfare budgets to make it through the recession.

If big thinkers young or old have suggestions for governments to balance their books while still attending to the needs of their aged, please discuss and debate them here.

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