Pensioners with sticky fingers

Japanese retirees have taken up an unlikely pastime—shoplifting

No stealing!

Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Forgoing gardening or trips to the Canadian Rockies, Japanese retirees have taken up an unlikely pastime—shoplifting. One in four people (26.1 per cent) arrested for the crime in 2010 in Japan were 65 or older, according to a report from the country’s National Police Agency. It’s a record high, nearly equal to the number of teens arrested in the same period (27.1 per cent).

The items most frequently stolen by pensioners, according to the report, are food and clothing. And the trend is being blamed on a three-pronged predicament: Japan’s flattened economy, the eroding tradition of multi-generational households, and a life expectancy that is normally the envy of most countries (by 2050, it’s projected that 40 per cent of Japanese will be over the age of 65). “Senior citizens likely commit shoplifting not only for financial reasons but also out of a sense of isolation,” a Tokyo police official told the Mainichi Daily News. Of 119 seniors busted by Tokyo police last year, 63 told officers they had “nothing to live for,” and 49 said they had no friends. To discourage the trend, thieving pensioners are being encouraged to volunteer in their communities.