Machiya, is a tiny woman who, like many, is now weathered and graying, only exacerbated by the fact she must live in the worst of conditions.
"It's not their fault, but it's pretty difficult being surrounded by those with severe mental illnesses," Machiya said. "It wasn't a pleasant environment, so I ended up on the streets again."
What is most unfortunate for the Japanese society is that Machiya's situation is far from an unusual one. The number of homeless within Japan has fallen in the past half-decade according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. Still, those in the more advanced age groups of 55 or above have grown to 73.5%, from 58% in the last decade.
A portion of the cause is basic demographic behavior, activists note. Japan's entire population is an aging one, and thus the homeless population simply reflects that fact. However, by 2060, two of every five will be over 65 years of age, and that means a higher portion of homeless seniors as well.
"Although the number of elderly homeless may be increasing, the homeless population was generally in their 50s and 60s to begin with," said Daisuke Kuroiwa, a member of Nojiren, a homeless support group.
"The company I used to work for went bankrupt, say Machiya. I've been living on the streets for eight years now," said the 50-year-old, whose tanned, leathery skin made him look older than his age. "It's also difficult for older people like me to find jobs because we're just not as strong."
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