As the number of people with dementia who were reported missing continues to rise in rapidly graying Japan, an expert in the field is underscoring the importance of community-wide support.

The National Police Agency said Thursday that the number of people with dementia who wandered from home and were reported missing reached a record 16,927 last year, up 1,064 from the previous year and nearly doubling since police began collecting such data in 2012.

Of the nearly 17,000 people who wandered off in 2018, 197 could not be found by the end of the year, while 16,227, including those reported missing in 2017 or earlier, were located, according to the police data. The remainder includes cases where a search request was withdrawn for some reason.