Lonely Death: A Special Report
Many people in Japan these days are dying alone in a phenomenon known as Lonely Death. The latest estimate puts the number of lonely deaths at 30,000 per annum.

One cleaner says this number has been increasing over the past 15 years. This number is also expected by one expert to increase to 100,000 over the next 15 years.

The hallmark of a lonely death is one in which no one reports the death days, weeks, months, or even years after it occurs.

Professor Yasuhiro Yuki, author of The Reality of Lonely Death, has identified four criteria for a lonely death:

(1) the death occurs inside a home

(2) nobody witnesses the death occur

(3) suicide is not considered a lonely death

(4) no one expects or predicts the death

Is Lonely Death the result of an aging population or might it have something to do with the way in which people communicate - or no longer communicate with each other?

Or is it a matter of placing too much value on the need for privacy? Commentators from Japan have mentioned that this is so in urban areas - not so much in rural areas.

In the documentary Undercover Asia: Lonely Deaths, it was noted by one cleaner that having money is not a factor: the deceased could be well off and still die lonely.

In watching this documentary, I was struck by a tendency of older people to give up on having or seeking the company of others, even with their own families and friends.

Official recognition in Japan is now given to Lonely Death through neighbourhood patrols that check the welfare of solitary residents living in community complexes.

I can well imagine that many Hikikomori are vulnerable to this type of death, especially as they get older and survive beyond the lives of their parents or benefactors. 

Lonely Death is a cold, stiff reminder of our need for each other.

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