Starting over with everything..

I lived and worked in Japan for a long time and have come back in a time of economic and ever present family drama to try and gain a foothold in my so-called home country. Armed with nothing but dog fur, a crappy car, a laptop that hates me, I try to see how far I can get.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Old people

Yesterday, I went to see a friend of mine in the hospital. She wasn't hurt seriously, but was made to stay overnite for observation. She had her own private room. In Japan, I'm guessing they put foreigners in private rooms for two reasons: 1.) So people don't stare at you constantly, causing you undo stress during your hospital stay and 2.) So you don't stare at the people who are staring at you constantly and causing them undo stress because their is a foreigner staring at them.

Japanese hospitals are strange. Her room had a small TV and a mini-fridge. You had to pay if you wanted to use either. The TV is situated so you have to lay on your side to watch. Her room had a leather couch which was quite comfy actually, although I doubt this is a practice that will be adopted anywhere else. When you press the call button for the nurse, the intercom comes on overhead and the nurse says, ' what is it now?' However, this is much more polite in Japanese. Then you yell back and she comes in moments later. Strange.

The first floor of the hospital had old people in the lobby. I thought at first this must be the dementia ward. After I came down later and the people were gone, I realized it was the arts and crafts / recreational area. There were just some people with dementia there earlier, but they had rooms elsewhere.

The second floor much like the first had a bevy of old people but much more sedate than the first floor. These old people were watching TV in the lobby and when I walked by they stared at me with sad eyes. Some smiled as I passed as if to convince me to stay and chat, but I just smiled back and walked away as fast as I could.

The state of old people in Japan is odd to me. I see some old people puttering around well past their experation date when it seems they should be 'resting peacefully'. Some walk, others shuffle, others ride scooters with cute little helmets on. They tend to their housework, their large gardens or even rice /onion/ tea fields with the vigor of a young person. Active shrinking members of society. They live with their families and are happy and live a long time. They have daily tasks and every day is a busy day.

This is a part of a day of my friends the Tanaka's. Wake up; watch NHK news; (here's where it splits for man and woman work, I'll continue on with man work) smoke one half cigarette; get ready and do hair; have bodily function; drink tea and swallow medicine powder; dust outside of car; eat breakfast with wife;watch NHK drama; smoke other half of cigarette; take bento (lunch); leave for "work" (work is patrolling the grounds of a university that's mostly empty and checking off a checksheet as you leave a room); call Sarah and ask: what she's doing, if she has a cold, why she didn't answer the phone yesterday, if she is going out today, to don't use your money on stupid things, to send you a text message, not to drive in the rain; go back home.

From the woman's part above she: gets up and starts cooking the bento; starts the laundry when she has time; bodily function; checks the food for dinner later and asks Tanaka if ~ is okay for dinner tonight; makes breakfast and sets table; makes tea, sets it out immediately; eats breakfast quickly and brings in dry laundry and folds while drinking tea and watching NHK drama; gets dressed; does hair; puts out laundry; says goodbye to Tanaka and leaves for work (she's a cook at a community college), then she comes home later.

Again, active strinking members of society. Sorry if I've bored you with their day, but they always have something to do, even on days off. However, they've adopted me into their home because it's usually just them puttering around on their lonesome. They have one son who's around 40 something and who never married. They haven't spoken to him in two years because he doesn't call them and the only time he was around in recent time was when Tanaka had cancer and he helped out, mostly financially. I call them once a week or so, they call me three or 5 times a week. These are the lucky old folks here.

I saw the unfortunate ones yesterday. They were abandoned to this hospital. I've heard a lot about them. In Japan, it's really shocking if you've put you're old folks in a "home". It's becoming more and more frequent as the society ages and stays alive. Finding useless jobs for these people become more difficult when their are so many people entering the job market. A Japanese friend of mine works at an old folks home. He always seems relieved to be around younger people when he goes out. He doesn't like to talk about his job because he says, it's just sad how they dump them off their and leave them without another thought. He says they just want to die and some try to commit suicide. In Japan, the largest age group to commit suicide are people who are 60 years old or over. It's really sad.

People should avoid putting their loved ones in homes. It's really horrible. Some people that work their are truly angels, but their only human and working with old people constantly can put a toll on you sometime. However, their are a great number of people who hate working their and they can make you're loved ones go through such hell in their final days/months/years that they will sit there and wish that you had left them their to die in the street of their own volition. Those sad eyes look up at you and they have had everything beaten out of them. They sit and wait for something to happen just so they can feel a little alive. Please be careful if this is your final recourse for your old person. Check out the place before you put them there and visit them for God sakes.

I only really had my natural grandparents around until I was about 7, but there where loads of old people around that I adopted as grandparents. Although I don't regret getting older, I regret the fact that they have to get older to. I've seen death too many times and I'm tired of it. Just because it's "natural" doesn't make it any easier when you know how they lived out their last days. Eh, well... This is really depressing and I have papers to grade. I have more to say but this is already too long.


  • At 11:32 PM , Blogger Amanda said...

    What's worse is that it's only going to get worse for the elderly over there, with fewer people having children. Very soon the elderly will outnumber everyone else, and unless Japan gets its butt in gear (quit making women choose between a real job and children, and quit being so afraid of letting foreigners in, and quit being so afraid of marrying outside of the Japanese gene pool), there won't be enough young people to support all of the old ones. Very scary. Few, if any other countries have a population declining as alarmingly fast as Japan.
    Great, now I'm down too.

  • At 3:29 AM , Blogger karen said...

    i've been pondering this population crisis, and i think i may have the solution....

    well, clearly saga doesn't have the same problems, there are young mums everywhere! why, just yesterday i met two 23 year old mums. my conclusion is that people have sexual relations more in saga as a means to kill their boredom... so, the japanese government should take away all fun things in japan. i'm talking bull dozing tokyo and turning it into a great big rice field!

    what do you all think? genius?

  • At 8:26 PM , Blogger Amanda said...

    That could work.

  • At 11:05 PM , Blogger sarah said...

    Clever little minx, you! You should wait for the nobel prize, I think it's due your way.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home