In graying Japan, where a rising number of people are living alone, being single doesn’t necessarily equate to being lonely.
More than 70 percent of single people in their 40s and above not only reject the idea of eventually tying the knot but claim they are satisfied with solitude and that they’re prepared for the autumn of life alone, according to findings by end-of-life consultancy firm Kamakura Shinsho Ltd.
The company believes the outcome of an online survey in May of single people — including divorcees and widowers — in their 40s or older nationwide, reflects the rise of solo living and associated concerns about dying alone.
“We’ve been receiving an increasing number of phone calls from people seeking advice on preparations for the end of life, and many people have been calling to book a gravesite,” the firm’s spokeswoman Yoshiko Enomoto said Thursday. “Now more people migrate to different areas within the country seeking jobs and end up alone more often than before. In the past more people would settle down in their hometowns, where they would live with their families that were much bigger than today.”
“It also shows how living in the city is convenient for singles,” she noted, adding that many respondents said that living alone is much easier than being married.
As many as 62.6 percent of the 444 single men and women who responded to the survey said they were doing their best to stay healthy, and about 40 percent said they were devoting their time to hobbies.
Enomoto said that results also showed that many people were satisfied with their solitude, citing freedom to manage time and money without restrictions. She added that women pay more attention to their personal affairs before death, including closing their bank accounts and handing their belongings to others.
One in five respondents said they were organizing their possessions in preparation for death, but the number for women was two times higher than it was for men.
Kazuhisa Arakawa, the author of “Super Solo Society,” which depicts societal problems surrounding the emergence of solo lifestyles, believes that men, in particular, who claim they’re fine with facing death alone may change their minds when they get older.
Women are more capable of dealing with death alone because they typically live longer than men, said Arakawa, who researches solitude in Japanese society for PR firm Hakuhodo Inc.
In the survey, more than half are comfortable with the idea of being single in the after life.
“But the level of awareness differs between men and women,” Arakawa said.
“A majority of survivors who fall ill after the death of their loved ones are men … And a larger number of male survivors tend to die by suicide compared to their female counterparts,” Arakawa said. “Men are too naive and don’t give deep thought to their death … Or even more to their current lifestyles. They just don’t think they might eventually be alone.
“Japanese men simply depend (too much) on their wives and children. Women are more capable of building personal connections, and are thus more independent.”
Arakawa estimates that by 2035, half of people over 15 years of age will be single and about 40 percent will live alone.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there were 13.43 million solo dwellers in Japan as of June 2016.
The government-run National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimates that one-person households will total 39 percent by 2040.
Kamakura Shinsho’s Enomoto also believes it is necessary to improve services for singles and offers to help municipalities with administrative procedures such as handling pension funds.
“Even if the deceased are allowed to benefit from public funeral services, people who die alone may not have anyone to arrange it,” Enomoto said of the need to improve support for those living in solitude so that they can approach their death with a sense of security.
“I think Japan is not offering enough support yet,” she added.