Elderly People Should Just “Hurry Up and Die,” Says Japanese Minister

“Let elderly people hurry up and die.” With this comment, Japan’s finance minister Taro Aso expressed his contempt on Monday for almost a quarter of his country’s 128 million population. That’s how many people are over 60 years old in Japan, where the percentage of elderly citizens is predicted to rise to over 40 percent over the next 50 years.

Aso himself is 72 years old, so his remarks may seem surprising. He is also one of Japan’s wealthiest politicians and the scion of a powerful political family. Aso has previously made a number of equally inflammatory remarks about “doddering” retirees who receive welfare, are “tax burdens” and have failed to care for their health.

According to a recent report, 2.14 million Japanese received welfare in October of 2012. In addition, more than 678,000 Japanese households with family members aged 65 or over receive welfare. To provide social services and to support its growing numbers of older citizens, the Japanese government has decided to double its sales tax over the next three years. But it is still planning to reduce welfare expenditures.

Aso’s remarks are certainly abhorrent and ugly. People are living longer thanks to developments in medicine and science. But we absolutely cannot “warehouse” them in nursing homes and other facilities where they can be isolated and, too often, forgotten. This issue was highlighted a few weeks ago when a report about Germany “exporting” its elderly to nursing homes in other countries appeared.

I still remember my late mother-in-law muttering under her breath that the Southern California retirement home some were urging her and my father-in-law to move to was “all very nice” but really simply a place she would “go to just to die.” While she was able to stay in her house in her native New Jersey, she spent her last days in a room in a nursing home without any familiar tokens of her long life nearby.

In direct rebuttal to Aso’s claim that the elderly are a burden to society, there are solutions. We must explore innovative ways to finance services for the elderly. As†Curtis Chang writes in the Stanford Social Innovation Review about the Bay Area†Jewish Family and Children Services (JFCS), which let go of the “typical nonprofit model” of specifically providing services for low-income seniors:

Instead, [the JFCS] aimed to help all seniors, including those with significant financial resources. The financially able group generated JFCSís core financial base, and today, 65 percent of the organizationís revenue comes from earned income. This financial strength allows JFCS to forego aggressive fundraising to cover core operating costs and instead to focus on [raising] funds to subsidize low-income clients.

As most elderly individuals wish to remain in their own homes as long as they can, we need to explore and implement policies that make such possible. As much as 12 percent of residents of nursing homes do not need the costlier round-the-clock care of such facilities but end up there because they cannot, for instance, walk or drive to get food and other essentials.

Programs like Meals On Wheels, which are financed through federal, state and local funds, can help; they can also have the additional benefit of fostering social interactions. Indeed, a study by Brown University researchers has found that “states that spent more than the average to deliver meals showed greater reductions in the proportion of nursing home residents who didnít need to be there.”

In supporting elderly people to stay in their homes, we also need to devote our energies to†preparations for a loved one to die at home and to†planning for end of life care. My grandmother died at 103 in the home she had lived in for more than half a century. She had previously been hospitalized; after insisting that she be brought back home, she died peacefully, surrounded by three generations of her family.

It shouldn’t have to be said. The elderly must have quality care. If we see such support not (as Japan’s Aso apparently does) as a problem but as simply essential, we can focus on creating solutions and ensure that, in their older years, all members of our society are treated with dignity, compassion and respect.

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christina rivers
christina r5 years ago

I would love to be alone with you for 5 minutes, my partner would deal with you good and probably teach you a thing or two about respecting your elders. I would like to see you survive the way a lot of your elderly do, you wouldn't make it past 24 hours on your own.

christina rivers
christina r5 years ago

You hypocrite you are 72 years old yourself, how about you hurry up and die. How dare you treat your elderly like that. Your parents were elderly at one point too. Did you forget?? Do you think you're better because you are wealthy. Well not everyone has that advantage, you jerk. All elderly should be looked after and treated with respect most of them were people who raised us. They are our past we are their future.

katarzyna phillips

those of you who may have already read the stories i've written about my experiences in the care homes, won't be too shocked to hear this one:

when i was in the nursing home, the deputy was walking around our 'home'-there were 4 in total on the premises, ours was intended for emi with some mobility, although almost half had none. i overheard her say to another member of staff "i'll be glad when ******** dies, he's so useless and a waste of space, he really p!$$e$ me off as he constantly attacks staff who are just helping him, stupid f***!ng schizophrenic. when he dies, we can get someone who can at least wipe their own ar$e in this room and get rid of the stink!"

WHAT?! i was totally amazed that someone with such power could say such a disgusting thing. yes he was difficult, but if you read the notes on him, you could understand why. he was gang raped when he was 12 for starters.

the day i left, he had died just an hour before i arrived for my last shift. i was the only one who went to his cremation funeral service from the nursing home; and was the only one who brought him flowers. the only other people there were two solicitors who had dealt with his finances till he died as he was incapable of dealing with them himself

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

Oh dear god, here they go again. Jacqueline - that mandate is only to prepare a paper on your final wishes when you die. They are not there to direct you in any way except to facilitate your wishes.
They're NOT there to tell you to hurry up, die and get off the dole. For Cripes' sakes, Some People!

Scott haakon
Scott haakon5 years ago

Do not condemn others for what some of the policies are here at home. He is honest in his sayings. Look at the "solutions" that out politicians are expounding. Work until 70! what retirement?

Lois K.
Lois K5 years ago

I don't understand how an elderly person can tell other elderly people to "hurry up and die." Why doesn't HE kill himself, then? He's 72, and judging by his crazy remarks, is no doubt a doddering, senile old burden to society. Perhaps he is the one who should "hurry up and die," and remove himself so that smarter people can take his place.

Sheri D.
Sheri D5 years ago

What an idiot!

Jennifer G.
Jennifer G5 years ago

Seems like Aso is more like an as$h0le

Bruno Moreira
Bruno Moreira5 years ago

the minister is messed up in the head thats for sure

Valentina R.
Valentina R5 years ago

What a compassionate man.