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Elderly people hoarding compulsively


Spa! (April 7) proclaims yet “another corona shock.” There have been many of them and there are likely to be many more before it’s over. This one is a “moral” shock, and it reflects badly on the elderly. Their hoarding, the magazine says, is scandalous and shameless.

In times gone by the elderly were society’s moral bedrock, keeping it steady when hard times rocked the foundations. Now – consider the testimony the magazine lines up against them.

“They line up in droves outside the neighborhood supermarket from 7 a.m., two hours before it opens,” fumes a (nameless) Tokyo company employee in his 40s. They’re free to do that. Young and middle-aged people, with work and domestic responsibilities to juggle – the more frantically now, with the kids home from school – are condemned to arrive late and settle for what’s left. Not much is. “By the time my wife gets there around 10, the frozen foods and noodles are sold out” – to say nothing of toilet paper.

The hoarding tendency got particularly intense after Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike, in a March 25 press conference, hinted at the possibility of a lockdown. There’s no telling what hardship that would entail. Best be prepared. Food, of course, is the main concern. If it runs out, you go hungry. If you hoard, you won’t. Others will, but that’s their problem. Such, in Spa!’s view, seems to be the prevailing attitude.

Food panic at least is comprehensible. Toilet paper? It’s easily made light of, when the supply is not threatened. When it is, it suddenly becomes elemental. Spa! cites the following episode, courtesy of a 34-year-old Tokyo resident with Shinagawa license plates on his car.

What do license plates have to do with it? Simple. In the neighborhood, toilet paper was sold out. Discovering online that stores in nearby Koto Ward were well stocked, he and the family drove out there.

It was early morning. The store was not yet open. There was a lineup. Into the parking lot as he drove in marched five elderly men. They were truculent. “We can’t have people coming here from outside the ward,” they said. “Supplies are limited as it is.”

The family lined up anyway, but by the time they got into the store there was nothing left. It soon became clear why. The five men had purchased armfuls of toilet paper and were passing it out to friends in line, some of them well behind the Shinagawa family.

Psychiatrist Hideki Wada suggests an explanation. “Most of the COVID-19 fatalities are among the elderly,” he tells the magazine “The elderly are particularly vulnerable, so if they’re particularly uneasy, it’s understandable. Also, there are many elderly who are not at home on the internet” – a disability in the pursuit of up-to-date information, and also, says Wada, “TV is dependent on ratings, and fear keeps them up.” Talk shows are thus motivated to stoke it, and stoke it they do, he says (not that online posting is immune to alarmism).

“The government should be making more effort to reach the elderly with reliable information, instead of indiscriminately calling on schools to close and events to be canceled,” says Wada.

The school closings have had many consequences. Kids kept home from school, parents kept home from work, stress levels up, economic activity down. Such things were foreseeable. Less so was the clash it bred between two improbable antagonists: children and the elderly. A Tokyo father in his 30s tells Spa! of sending his kids to his parents in rural Shikoku. That way he and his wife could keep working, and the kids would probably be happier too.

The grandparents were willing enough, but after a week they called: “The neighbors are complaining. They say the children are noisy, we can’t let them play outside; I’m afraid this isn’t working.”

Once the outdoors were swarming with children, the air rang with their shouts, laughter, tears. No longer. Now, with their numbers dwindling and the elderly growing older and more intolerant, it’s considered a nuisance.

Spa!’s melancholy conclusion: “In the end, the worst effect of the pandemic may be social breakdown.”

© Japan Today

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Out in Kanagawa I do not see any hoarding at all. Maybe people here near Yamato and Machida are more mellow? Or is Spa stoking the flames?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

I do not see this happening in The States.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

When the food supplies dwindle as the virus spreads rampant across Japan forcing breakdown of the supply chains maybe people will be praising their foresight.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

In my opinion, it is always a good idea to have something put away for a rainy day, whether that something is money, food, or other supplies. However, that does not mean that it is productive to compulsively save every dollar earned, or that it is a good idea to spend every dollar earned on hoarding more than one needs for a month or so.

Another way to put it is to say that it is more productive to work for collective security than to build a fortress for every individual or family. We should respect the individual, while realizing the power in collective action.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Seems a bit of an old news. Now all the hoarding is focused on masks. We have gangs of elderlies patrolling pharmacies waiting for the mask shelves to be stocked because employees are forced to stock them at irregular schedules to prevent customers from lining up in mornings, and when they stock up they contact their friends stationed outside and they come in hoards and instantly empty the shelves. The worst part is they apparently don't even use those masks for themselves; they give them out to friends and relatives for collecting social brownie points.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Let them waste their time lining up for masks that will not even protect them from the common cold!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Maybe many of the elderly were children during WWII or during the aftermath of WWII, and they remember what it is like when there is nothing. No food, no clothes, no nothing. Maybe they see that coming again.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Once this blows over, some people will be sitting on a life-time supply of toilet paper and then some.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Don't have a source, but I remember reading an article that stated that, it was the old peolpe who were the ones with the worst behavior in terms of staying indoors, social distancing and hoarding.

Which I find Ironic considering their the ones at higher risk

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Stores should set limits on items in short or potential short supply-put an end to this "armfuls of toilet paper, handing it out to friends in line nonsense".

In many parts of the world stores have a seniors hour (usually early morning) allowing older and immuno-compromised people into the store first to avoid the mobs of shoppers...it works (combined with limiting quantities of course)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

An older woman nearly mowed me down in the grocery store yesterday as I was trying to adhere to social distancing guidelines. She apparently did not think distancing was necessary and cut right in front of me. A gentle push to her cart set things right.

There is much discussion of the entitled youth in the USA. I see that more of a problem of the older folks in this country.

2 ( +3 / -1 )


Let them waste their time lining up for masks that will not even protect them from the common cold!

No, let them waste their time lining up for masks which won't even appear on the shelves for several more weeks! (And counting)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is a real problem...elderly should really STAY HOME!!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For Japan to survive in the inevitable lock down, I believe Abe, Koike, and Japanese people need to find out how the Morrison Government has been handling the pandemic crisis in Australia.

Since the Australian Agriculture minister David Littleproud announced that Australian farmers had the capacity to supply enough foods for five times the population of Australia and that the Morrison Government strongly affirmed that greedy stockpilers would be heavily punished (together with the Job Keeper policy to financially support business owners and those who lost jobs), the situation in Australia has improved significantly.

Consequently, a desperate stockpiler had recently asked a shopping centre in Adelaide if he could return a large amount of essentials worth around $AUD 10,000 (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-15/supermarket-shopper-tries-to-return-coronavirus-hoardings/12149548).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is a failure of government. In a crisis like the present day novel Corona virus...shops should be required to limit the number of items each customer can purchase and ban customers who attempt to circumvent the rules by returning frequently. Also, customers that like to pick up, touch and replace items back on the shelf should be banned. The rule should be that if you touch it you must buy it. Both rules would immediately stop the older retired hoardes from buying up all the stock and spreading the virus by manhandling products they then leave on the shelves.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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