Previously Japanese societyensured that elders were cared for by family and friends, but thatis no longer the case. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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It's not all about the money.

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Elderly women are stealing their way into Japan'sprisons, literally, often because they can't afford to buy thethings they steal but also because they have no one to help them asthey age.

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Bloomberg Businessweek reports that in some cases, prisons arebeginning to resemble nursing homes, as those incapable of caringfor themselves end up in prison, where they are fed and housed andcared for, and have the company of others.

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Japan has the world's oldest population, says the report, andsenior crime is a problem it didn't anticipate.

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Previously Japanese society ensured that elders were cared forby family and friends, but that is no longer the case—and seniorsare increasingly ending up in prison over minor offenses, usuallyshoplifting.

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Says the report, “From 1980 to 2015, the number of seniorsliving alone increased more than sixfold, to almost 6 million. Anda 2017 survey by Tokyo's government found that more than half ofseniors caught shoplifting live alone; 40 percent either don't havefamily or rarely speak with relatives.”

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Prison is more of a refuge for many, providing not just the carethey can't get elsewhere but a community of sorts providing socialinteraction.

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Senior poverty exists in the U.S. too. Consider some of thesefigures: A Kaiser Family Foundation report says that out of 51.1million people older than 65 in 2017, “[m]ore than 15 million olderadults had incomes below 200 percent of poverty based on theofficial poverty measure in 2017 (30.1 percent), a number thatincreases to more than 21 million (42.0 percent) based on theSPM.”

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The poverty rate increases with age, it adds, and is alreadyhigher for women, black, Hispanics and those in relatively poorhealth. And close to 3 million women 65 and older “have incomesbelow poverty under the official poverty measure, but this numberrises to more than 4 million under the SPM (based on three-year2015-2017 averages).

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Among older men, 1.6 million live in poverty based on theofficial poverty measure, a number that increases to 2.7 millionbased on SPM.”

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The poverty rate among seniors has been growing, as figures fromthe National Women's Law Center from 2013 indicate, and looks tocontinue to do so. Forbes reports that efforts to cut SocialSecurity, Medicare and Medicaid benefits continue under Republicanleaders.

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It remains to be seen whether the new tide of Democrats enteringCongress in 2019 will stem those efforts.

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Even without actual benefit cuts, the erosion of Social Securitybenefits' purchase value as it fails to keep up with inflation hasmeant that many seniors are already choosing between food andmedication, or food and lodging.

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READ MORE:

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Almost half of middle-class Americans face downwardmobility

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Retirement age? What retirementage?

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5 lowest, 5 highest retirement ages around theglobe

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