TOKYO - Japan's rapidly aging society, where nearly one in four people is over 65, means that more elderly are living alone every year, and also, sadly, dying alone, their bodies sometimes undiscovered for days.
But now, local authorities are teaming up with groups such as the post office to check in on senior citizens, increasing their human contact and improving their lives.
Tokyo's Shinagawa ward, where last year at least 25 elderly died alone in their homes, in August began a venture with Japan Post in which postmen check up on people over 65 once a month by handing them seasonal greeting cards.
"We hope to strengthen ties within the community," said Akihiro Hara, a Shinagawa welfare official.
The experimental program calls on postmen to make sure nothing is amiss when they visit the homes of the elderly and to contact a special center at the ward office if something is wrong. That office will in turn contact hospitals and local welfare officials if needed.