Elderly make up 37% in public housing for Tohoku disaster victims


Some 37.2 percent of the disaster victims still living in temporary public housing in the three prefectures hit hardest by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami are 65 or older, and roughly a quarter of the households are composed of individuals living alone.

In Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the percentage of elderly people in public housing complexes for disaster victims who can’t rebuild their homes on their own was higher than the Tohoku region average of 25.5 percent, according to a survey by Kyodo News.

In the survey covering 8,432 people living in 4,069 public housing units, 3,136 people in 2,301 units were aged 65 or older as of the end of January. The average age was 50.

Since the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, around 30,000 housing units for disaster victims have been planned for construction, mainly in the three prefectures.

Amid the continuing aging of the residents, the survey results point to the importance of sustaining their mental and physical well-being and strengthening their community bonds.

Ahead of the fourth anniversary of the disasters on Wednesday, Iwate had the highest figure — at 41.9 percent — of residents in disaster public housing aged 65 or older, followed by 37.1 percent in Fukushima and 35.6 percent in Miyagi.

The survey found that 987 elderly people, or 24.3 percent of the total households in disaster public housing, were living alone. Five elderly people have so far died unattended.

Japan has also been struggling to address the issue of elderly people dying alone in the aftermath of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. The cumulative number of unattended deaths has reached more than 1,000 in the western Japan disaster.