"Say, don't you want to have a man in your life?"
The 86-year-old woman, seated on a bench outside a rail station in Chiba Prefecture, reacted in disbelief. She'd just been propositioned by a elderly gent, four years older, sitting next to her.
The woman happened to be on her way home from a muscle-strengthening exercise session at a local day care center when accosted by the man, a former cop. "How about a cup of tea?" he persisted.
"I was just sitting on the bench waiting for somebody, and didn't make any moves toward him," said the woman. "But he kept sliding closer."
She subsequently learned that the man has been declared persona non grata at the day care center after having come on to numerous females.
"Being a former cop, he still had a robust physique," relates the woman, who had been widowed more than 10 years earlier. "I never expected him to approach me. It was scary. I wanted to get away from him."
As it turned out, nothing came of the above encounter. But as Shukan Asahi (Oct 10) reports, violations of the anti-stalking law involving elderly people have been on the increase.
In June of this year, the Asahi Shimbun reported three cases. In one, a 68-year-old unemployed man in Nagasaki was apprehended after slipping a lurid message into the mail slot of a 78-year-old woman, and then requesting she let him in her home. He had previously been a good customer in the shop operated by the woman.
In Fukuoka, a 70-year-old man who collected discarded items for recycling persistently telephoned a woman, 23 years his junior, who had broken off their relationship. Disregarding a warning from the local police to leave her alone, he was caught waiting in front of her house.
In Wakayama, an 85-year-old man seeking companionship (his wife had passed away the previous year) recorded a string of messages on the home answerphone of an 80-year-old woman. He also entered her yard.
According to National Police Agency statistics, out of 21,089 reported cases of stalking in 2013, 1,089, or 9.1%, involved perpetrators age 60 and above. This number represents a fourfold increase from 10 years ago, and the increase in this age segment has considerably outstripped those of other age groups.
"There were cases of elderly stalkers in the past, but in the present society with people living longer, the statistical parameters have increased, and with them, the number of reported cases has also risen rapidly," says Hiroaki Fukui, a psychiatrist and author.
Fukui cites such contributing factors as anxieties over old age, poor human relationships, living alone and other problems common among the elderly. He also thinks that males belonging to Japan's postwar baby boomer generation, now around age 65, are particularly vulnerable to becoming stalkers.
"From the time they were born, their numbers were large, and they were obliged to constantly engage in competition, in school examinations, for job promotions, and so on," Fukui observes. "And because they were so devoted to their jobs, after they reached the age of retirement, they found there was no place for them at home. They had few interests outside of their work, and don't know what to do with their time. There's also the value systems they hold, of regarding males as superior to females. These factors and the sense of alienation they produced draw out stalker behavior."
At the behest of the police, Fukui has developed a computer program that rates the degree of potential danger in cases of stalking and domestic violence, using items from a checklist that use frequency and types of behavior in a 5-point scale. The police officially adopted the program nationwide at the end of 2013.
Finally comes these words of advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of stalking, from Akiko Kobayakawa, who serves as a director and counselor at an NPO called "Humanity."
"Even if you intend to be fair and gentle to someone, a person bent on stalking won't understand this. While you may feel you must be deferential to a person because of his age, if you feel that he has special feelings toward you, it is best, at an early stage, to inform him (or her -- Dr Fukui says the numbers of the two genders are roughly even) clearly, 'I don't see you in terms of being a member of the opposite sex.' And it's important to remind yourself that you have done nothing to deserve it. Even if that person scares you, you need to maintain composure. It's necessary to deal with the problem before it escalates."© Japan Today