A city in Tokyo has engaged in the unique experiment of bar-coding its elderly, in a bid to cope with its growing numbers of elderly people with dementia. Over five million of Japan’s elderly are suffering with dementia. 10,000 dementia patients are claimed to go missing in Japan annually, with hundreds being found dead or not at all. This is such an issue that those who walk into the path of a speeding train are even given a posthumous bill for the cost. To tackle this issue, the local government began issuing free QR-coded tags with the address, phone number and identity number of the wearer. These adhesive tags are attached to the dementia sufferers’ fingernails so that police can read them and contact a family member. Most dementia sufferers live at home with family and a survey released in 2016 revealed that three-quarters of those caring for an elderly family member have considered suicide, or worse. In 2015, there were 44 cases of murder or attempted murder in such situations in Japan.
Professional care is not possible for many due to an acute shortage of nurses, it has been projected that roughly 130,000 elderly people may not have beds in care homes in Tokyo by 2025 To alleviate its inverted population pyramid, Japan has delayed retirement, while phone and car companies have made their technology easier to navigate.
In a desperate bid to cope with these issues, the idea to move the 5.7 million elderly people to less populated regions was suggested. Not only was this dismissed as it would potentially break their stretched services, it also forced government ministers to deny that they were recommending the return of ‘ubasute’, a mythical ancient custom where the elderly are left on mountains to die. Arguments over whether the elderly are the responsibility of the state or their families have entered into the courts and it has been warned that soon much of Western Europe will have to negotiate similar issues.