Senior citizens serving time in a Japanese prison do light daily chores. After dining on low-sodium suppers in their rooms, most curl up for the night with freshly filled hot-water bottles says the Washington Post. Onomichi Prison is being hailed as a model for Japan, a rapidly graying nation grappling with an alarming surge in aged criminals. Japanese over 60 represent the fastest-growing group of lawbreakers. The number of those 70 and older who have been charged has increased the most — doubling in just four years to a record 21,324 in 2004. Juvenile arrests edged up only 2.2 percent during the same period.
The leap in crime among the elderly is in part because of demographics. Japan has the world’s longest life expectancy–82 years — and the highest percentage of seniors, with almost one in five residents now 65 or older. Officials also cite an outbreak of geriatric crime, including a spike in first-time offenders committing anything from petty theft to murder. Criminologists blame the collapse in recent years of traditional extended families, in which elderly Japanese live with their adult children. Last February, police in southwestern Japan arrested three men, ages 71, 69 and 67, for allegedly organizing a purse-snatching ring.