More retirees fill empty hours with booze, pachinko
BY RIE YAMADA
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
When he retired at 60, a man in Osaka Prefecture let out a sigh of relief. He had done his "duty," and both his son and daughter were independently making their way in the world.
But instead of kicking back and relaxing, the man, now 69, watched as his life began to spin out of control.
An industrious worker at a precision instrument company for 38 years, he was never absent or late for work--even on days when he had gone drinking with colleagues the night before.
When he retired, his children encouraged him to relax and enjoy life.
"What should I do from now?" he remembered thinking. "I'll think about it over a drink."
He took to drinking beer and sake with neighbors. Soon, he drank for longer periods. Booze became his life; he drank as long as he was awake.
He had become an alcoholic.
Psychiatrists and other experts say his problem is shared by an increasing number of people around retirement age.
As corporate warriors who supported Japan's phenomenal growth in the 1960s and '70s are retiring in droves, cases of post-retirement addiction like his are increasing, they said.
"Many of these retirees develop dependence on gambling or dating websites, not just alcohol," said Masando Iwasaki, 57, a psychiatrist in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Three years ago, the Osaka man's family took him to a hospital, where he underwent a three-month alcohol-recovery program. He now attends meetings of a self-help group while visiting the hospital.
"It (drinking) was a reaction to my sense of relief," the man said. "In hindsight, I think it would have been better if I had chosen not sake but something else to spend time on."
A 71-year-old man in Osaka-Sayama, Osaka Prefecture, who goes to a hospital twice a week for treatment of his alcoholism, said he is trying to keep himself busy. To keep his mind off the booze, he works out at a gym and is a member of a community anti-crime patrol.
"I never imagined I would become an addict," he said.
He toiled at an iron works for 35 years until he retired at the age of 61. He went to work at 9 a.m. and came home at 7 p.m. Usually, he drank only a little with dinner.
But after retirement, having no need to worry about crawling out of bed the next day, he began to drink heavily. In the morning, he drank sake instead of tea, and had a drink after weeding the garden. He drank at lunch, at dinner and after taking a bath.
Cheap shochu spirits replaced sake. He'd go through a 1.8-liter bottle in two days.
He developed hepatitis six years ago. His doctor said he had to quit drinking or he would die. Still, he secretly drank.
Last December, he felt numbness in his limbs and his speech was slurred. When he finally went to a hospital, he discovered he couldn't even write his name.
Looking back, he said, "I suppose I needed something to put in my mouth."
Unlike younger alcoholics who drink large quantities and repeat problem behaviors, older people tend to suddenly develop their addiction around retirement age.
At the All Nippon Abstinence Association, members 60 years old or older shot up to 53.3 percent in fiscal 2008, from 41 percent in fiscal 2001.
"For those who devoted themselves to work, it is difficult to find a new hobby or something to live for after retirement," said Kozo Wake, director of Shinseikai Hospital in Izumi, Osaka Prefecture, which specializes in treating alcoholics.
Other forms of dependent behavior are common.
For a 68-year-old retiree living in the Tokyo metropolitan area, it was pachinko.
He said until a year ago, he felt uneasy unless he was seated at a pachinko machine.
He used to work at a supermarket, handling many different tasks. The change came when it merged with another company and he got a new boss.
As a deputy store manager, he was a favorite target of the manager's bullying. The boss taunted him saying, "your salary's too high" and other equally obnoxious remarks.
But he was determined not to complain in front of his wife and two children. He soothed his troubles by playing pachinko.
Around the time he retired, he was withdrawing 50,000 yen a day from his savings account. He also borrowed 200,000 to 300,000 yen each from a few consumer credit companies.
"I thought a jackpot would solve everything," he recalled. "But I was worried to death when repayment deadlines drew close."
The man attends a self-help group, meeting four to five times a week. He said he feels better after talking about his problem with group members.
"We are oppressed by our company while working, and then suddenly we are set free," he said. "It would be all right if we had a hobby while still at work, but I don't think many do."
Iwasaki, the author of "Teinen-sei Izonsho" (Post-retirement dependence), offers the following advice:
"It is important to be aware while still on a job that life is not all about work.
"Even if you are devoted to your job on weekdays, you could spend time together with your family members after 5 p.m. or on holidays so you have a good work-life balance," he said.(IHT/Asahi: August 1,2009)
It is really horrible, that people are so consumed of work during there life, that they don't know what to do when they retire, but drinking and gambling. I mean, how can someone throw away his/her life like that?
I am speechless.
Re: More retirees fill empty hours with booze and pachinko
This isn't just a society problem emerging from Japan. But the rest of the developed world too. With baby boomer generation now approaching retirement, developed nations are gearing up to tackle this greying population.
These people worked hard half of their life to bring up their children. But now when their children are all grown up and no longer need to be fed by their aged parents. These old people now found themselves without an aim in life. Boredom creeps in and that is how they got themselves involved into alcohol or gambling addictions.
Singapore is one of country that is expected to face this problem too. And the government has been tackling this problems by setting up a few measures,
1) Introduction of the Silver Industry
This measures encourages employers to re-employed the healthier old people back into the industry to tap on their working experience. Of course, it doesn't just mean working hard. These people can now pass their time easily and furthermore re-contribute back to the economy.
2) Setting up of exercise facilities in every estate
These facilities are built with the purpose of being used by the aged elders. This will promote a sense of healthy lifestyle amongst the older generation.
3) Housing subsidy for those children, who purchased their flat, within two kilometres of their parent's home.
This measure will encourage the younger generation into keeping tabs with their parents even if they had left home to set up a family of their own. This means that the older generation can also chip in babysitting their grandchildren while their children are out to work.
The solution here is for the government to keep looking into possibilities on how keep the older generation occupied and how they will pass their time.