A total of 21,716 people in Japan died alone at home from January through March, nearly 80% of whom were 65 or older, the National Police Agency said Monday as it released an official tally on solitary deaths for the first time.

Based on the figure — which includes those who died by suicide — the number of older people dying alone at home is estimated to reach 68,000 annually, NPA official Kazuhito Shinka said during a Lower House committee session the same day. Shinka was responding to questions by Akira Nagatsuma, a former welfare minister from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

As Japan grapples with its population's rapid aging, supporting people who live and grow old alone is looming larger on the policy agenda.