The number of elderly Japanese people committing acts of shoplifting has surged to an all-time high, a bizarre manifestation of the country’s economic stagnation, breakdown of social standards, and a rapidly aging population.

In its annual report, The National Police Agency (NPA) said that more than 27,000 retirees (above the age of 65) were arrested for shoplifting in 2010 -- about one-fourth of all such defendants, and almost equal to the number of teenagers similarly caught.

The majority of these elderly thieves stole food or clothes, instead of pricier luxury items, the NPA noted.

The NPA report also indicated that about 72 percent of the elderly shoplifters cited possession or consumption as motives, while 13.2 percent blamed poverty.

The number of elderly picked up for shoplifting has increased tenfold over the past twenty years, according to BBC.

Among the many problems Japan faces is the fact that more than 20 percent of its population is now over the age of 65. By 2050, that figure is expected to climb to a mind-boggling 40 percent.
Meanwhile, as the economy continues to deteriorate and government spending is expected to decline, it is likely that more of Japan’s elderly will sink into poverty and desperation.

In addition, Japan’s traditional multi-generational households have changed as more young people relocate to the big cities, often leaving their grandparents isolated.