Avoiding the ‘solitary death’

Reading Amy Chavez’s Aug. 3 article, “The yellow flag outside the door — life or death” was instructive and impressive. In bigger cities of Japan, what they call “solitary death” has become a serious social problem because of the graying of society, the trend toward the nuclear family and people’s weaker community ties.

A lot of municipal officers are now trying to deal with how to prevent it, while some retailers have started free delivery of lunch boxes and other items for the elderly. Such services may enable a delivery person to notice whether his or her customers are fine. I’ve heard of some trying to introduce a measure like the “yellow flag” system mentioned in Chavez’s article.

It is deplorable that after a solitary death is discovered, some family members of the deceased refuse to deal with the body and personal belongings. In such cases, the corpse is cremated and the possessions are disposed of, all at taxpayer expense. These costs are increasing. Many Japanese were taught to believe that not being present at the death of a parent was a serious delinquency. This belief still seems strong enough for solitary deaths to attract a lot of attention these days. I just hope that more people will be calmly seen off by relatives or doctors at the time of death.

shuichi john watanabe
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.