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Friday, Sep. 14, 2012

Health of elderly evacuees seen deteriorating


SENDAI — The number of elderly people certified as needing care topped 110,000 in 42 communities in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures at the end of June, up by 12,000, or 12 percent, from 2010, according to a Kyodo News survey.

The increase in the three prefectures hardest hit by the March 2011 disasters apparently indicates that the health of seniors, mainly in coastal areas damaged by the tsunami, has been deteriorating the longer they spend as evacuees.

It is notable that municipalities near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant saw drastic rises during the 2½-year period.

Residents of Okuma, where everyone was forced to evacuate because of radioactive fallout, marked a 50 percent jump in seniors needing special care.

In the 42 communities studied, the number of elderly certified as requiring care stood at 97,827 as of the end of March 2010, and edged up to 99,050 one year later, shortly after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

It came to 108,007 as of the end of March this year, attributable to the prolonged period spent in emergency housing, before reaching 110,039 three months later, the survey found.

"The living environment of elderly people affected by the disaster has been drastically changing," an official in the tsunami-damaged city of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, said. "We have concerns that the number of those who need intensive care due, for example, to dementia may increase."

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