Authorities must ensure elderly are protected
How could that man be "healthy" for such a long time? It is simply astonishing and raises endless questions.
On July 22, skeletal remains believed to be those of a person recognized as the oldest living man in Tokyo were found on a bed at his home in Adachi Ward. Sogen Kato would be 111 years old if he were alive today, but he actually died more than 30 years ago.
Kato lived with his daughter and her husband, both in their 80s, and two grandchildren aged 49 and 53.
According to his grandchildren, Kato remained cloistered in his room, and died there, after declaring about 30 years ago that he "wanted to be a living Buddha." They say the family never entered his room after that.
This is very hard to believe. The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating his family's actions on suspicion of negligence as guardians resulting in death, but it will not be easy to determine how Kato died.
One thing for certain is that Kato was alive on his family register and believed to be continuing to age.
Benefits outlived recipient
Payments were made in Kato's name of his noncontributory old-age pension benefits prior to his wife's death in 2004, after which payments of survivor's mutual aid pension benefits were made. A total of nearly 10 million yen was deposited into Kato's account, from which a considerable sum has been withdrawn.
The MPD also plans to question Kato's relatives over whether they attempted to fraudulently obtain his pension benefits.
Many cases have recently been uncovered across the country in which children who depended on their parents' pensions continued to receive benefits illegally by concealing the parents' deaths. We hope police will thoroughly investigate this latest case to prevent similar acts.
This case was uncovered after the Adachi Ward Office became suspicious and contacted police when welfare officials from the ward repeatedly visited Kato's home to see him but his family refused to let them in.
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, "If someone's family refuses, it's difficult for administrative authorities to take further steps."
Until the case was uncovered, the ward office systematically gave Kato gifts to celebrate his longevity without seeing his face or knowing his circumstances.
Elderly may suffer in secrecy
We cannot help but feel misgivings about such a situation from the standpoint of prevention of the abuse of elderly people and confirmation of their health. The relevant systems and authorities must be checked.
In the latest case, administrative authorities might have taken action much earlier if there was a mechanism that provided such information as the fact that Kato had not received medical or other services for the elderly for a long period of time.
There must be coordination with the social security system as well.
There have been an increasing number of cases in which the name of an elderly person does not appear on a list of "golden agers" because of requests for privacy from the elderly person or their family. Administrative officials do not necessarily meet the elderly person directly to confirm their situation.
This latest incident has highlighted worrying elements of the administration of elderly people's affairs.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 1, 2010)