According to the 2005 Japanese census, there are 14.5 million single-person households, twice as many as there were twenty years earlier. What’s more, 30 percent are seniors. Almost five times as many men in their 50s and 60s live by themselves now than lived by themselves twenty years ago. The same goes for women in their 40s and 50s. Of these, slightly more than 10 percent have incomes of less than ¥1.5 million a year.
Obviously, most of these single householders fear for their futures, since Japan has no real safety net for such people. However, according to Asahi Shimbun, there is a network that was established in 1998 called SSS, which stands for Single Smile Senriors. Basically, it is a support service for older women who live by themselves. It has grown from 20 members to its present 900. These women take care of one another as they grow older because they have no families to do so and they know they cannot count on the government. The Asahi provides an example of one member who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in her 60s and who was comforted by other members of the network until she passed away. Of course, the obvious question is: Why isn’t there an equivalent network for men?