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Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010
Where are the missing elderly?
One municipality after another is unable to locate people aged 100 or over. It is likely that more than 200 such people are unaccounted for nationwide. Among them are 105 names of elderly people on the residents' basic register in Kobe and 63 in Osaka. The situation highlights municipalities' failure to accurately record people's moves and deaths as well as the weakening of communities' ability to help people in need.
If a person moves into or out of a municipality, that person, or his or her proxy, must file a form with the municipality so that the change will be recorded on the residents' basic register. If a person dies, his or her family member must file a form that records the death on the basic register.
As long as municipalities do not verify people's residency, nursery care insurance-related notifications and pensions may continue to be sent to people who no longer reside in the area or who may have passed away.
The Japan Pension Service says that the total number of basic pension numbers assigned to people aged 100 or over is more than twice the actual number of those people. It is supposed that these people came to have two or more basic pension numbers through marriage, divorce or job changes. The possibility cannot be ruled out that pensions are being paid to dead people. Also, pension fraud by relatives cannot be ruled out. The service says it will rectify the situation by checking residents' basic registers. But the registers themselves are unreliable.
Municipal workers say that since they have the obligation to protect the privacy of people, they cannot enter a residence to verify the existence of elderly people if family members reject their entry. They appear to be bound by too narrow an interpretation of the Personal Information Protection Law. The central government must rectify the situation.
For their part, citizens should show concern for the welfare of disadvantaged members of their communities, such as the elderly and single-parent families. They should help communities regain the functions they used to play in the past.