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The number of elderly people committing crimes in Japan has been going up every year. Twenty years ago, 1 in 20 crimes committed in Japan were committed by elderly people. Last year, the number increased to 1 in 5. It is an increasing phenomenon which has raised questions about the standard of living for retired people in Japan.

Some elderly criminals have claimed that they commit crimes so they can live for free in jail. The basic state pension in Japan is very low and as such, pensioners who rely on it find it very difficult to afford basic necessities. One pensioner, Toshio Takata, stole a bike and rode it to the police station when he ran out of money after reaching pension age. Toshio says there is a positive monetary benefit to being in prison; “when I get out I have saved some money. So it is not that painful.” This is because while he is in prison, he still receives his state pension but his outgoings are zero as the prison provides all of his care for free.

Toshio went to prison for one year for stealing the bike, even though it was his first ever criminal offense. This situation has caused controversy over criminal sentencing in Japan. Theft is taken incredibly seriously and is often punished by sending the culprit to prison for stealing even the smallest items. Shoplifting is the biggest crime committed by old people in Japan and it is mostly food items worth less than $30 which are stolen. A 2016 report said that a person in Japan could go to prison for two years for stealing a $2 sandwich. It would then cost the Japanese government $84,000 to keep the person in prison for those years.

Traditionally in Japan, children would support and look after their parents once the parents retired. This normally coincided with the children being at a stable position in their career, therefore the children could afford to care for their parents. However, the Japanese economy has been continuously weakening year after year and the younger generations are often not in a position to care for their parents. Many children have had to move far away from their homes in order to find work and are unable to provide care for their parents.

There have been discussions regarding what should be done to quell this epidemic but there have been no concrete steps to actually combat it thus far.

Difficult words

Phenomenon: Something that occurs, usually out of the ordinary.

Monetary: Relating to money.

Outgoings: Money spent.

Pension: Money given by the government after retirement.

Offense: To break a rule or law.

Sentencing: Giving a punishment for an offense.

Culprit: The cause of a problem.

Coincide: To occur at the same time.

Quell: To put an end to.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

British English: 

American English:

Match the Synonym!

1. Phenomenon A. Expenses
2. Monetary B. Crime
3. Outgoings C. To end
4. Pension D. Simultaneous
5. Offence E. Financial
6. Sentencing F. Cause
7. Culprit G. Retirement fund
8. Coincide H. Occurrence
9. Quell I. Punishment

True or False?

1.  Elderly crime has been decreasing in Japan every year. T / F

2.  The standard of living for retired people in Japan has been questioned. T / F

3. Elderly criminals need to pay money to stay in jail. T / F

4. The state pension in Japan is very low. T / F

5. Pensioners cannot save money while they’re in jail. T / F

6. Pensioners have zero outgoings while they’re in jail.  T / F

7. Shoplifting is not a serious offense in Japan. T / F

8. It has been a tradition for children to take care of their elderly parents in Japan. T / F

9. The economy has not been good in Japan recently. T / F

10.  Many children have been able to stay living in their hometowns when they grow older. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. is / phenomenon / questions / an / increasing / It / which / has / raised

2. pension / The / is / in / Japan / low / basic / state / very

3. monetary / Toshio / positive / benefit / there / is / a / says

4. year / prison / one / Toshio / for / went / for / stealing / to

5.to / move / far / Many / have / children / away / had

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

British English: 

American English:

Prison Committed Controversy
Necessities Generations Criminal
Concrete Pension Receives

The number of elderly people committing crimes in Japan has been going up every year. Twenty years ago, 1 in 20 crimes committed in Japan were _____________ by elderly people. Last year, the number increased to 1 in 5. It is an increasing phenomenon which has raised questions about the standard of living for retired people in Japan.

Some elderly criminals have claimed that they commit crimes so they can live for free in jail. The basic state pension in Japan is very low and as such, pensioners who rely on it find it very difficult to afford basic ______________. One pensioner, Toshio Takata, stole a bike and rode it to the police station when he ran out of money after reaching ___________ age. Toshio says there is a positive monetary benefit to being in prison; “when I get out I have saved some money. So it is not that painful.” This is because while he is in prison, he still _____________ his state pension but his outgoings are zero as the prison provides all of his care for free.

Toshio went to prison for one year for stealing the bike, even though it was his first ever ______________ offense. This situation has caused ___________________ over criminal sentencing in Japan. Theft is taken incredibly seriously and is often punished by sending the culprit to prison for stealing even the smallest items. Shoplifting is the biggest crime committed by old people in Japan and it is mostly food items worth less than $30 which are stolen. A 2016 report said that a person in Japan could go to ____________ for two years for stealing a $2 sandwich. It would then cost the Japanese government $84,000 to keep the person in prison for those years.

Traditionally in Japan, children would support and look after their parents once the parents retired. This normally coincided with the children being at a stable position in their career, therefore the children could afford to care for their parents. However, the Japanese economy has been continuously weakening year after year and the younger ____________________ are often not in a position to care for their parents. Many children have had to move far away from their homes in order to find work and are unable to provide care for their parents.

There have been discussions regarding what should be done to quell this epidemic but there have been no ________________ steps to actually combat it thus far.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. How are elderly people treated in your country?
4. Do children traditionally take care of parents in your country?
5. Are retirement homes popular in your country?
6. Do you have a plan for your retirement?
7.  What is the retirement age in your country?
8. What is the crime rate like in your country?
9. What age group do you think commits the most crimes in your country?
10. Is shoplifting a serious crime in your country?
11. Is your country tough on crime?
12. Does your country have a good pension system?
13. What do you think about the old people who want to go to jail?
14. Do people in your country have to travel far to find work?
15. Is it wrong for old people to commit crimes so they can live for free?
16. Should prison be made worse to stop people from wanting to go there?
17. What are prison conditions like in your country?
18. What do you think the Japanese government should do for these people?
19. What would you like to do when you are retired?
20. Would you like to ask any of these old people any questions?