A scholar in the field of ethics writes in the Diagnosis of the Times column of the Catholic Peace Weekly on the problem of people dying alone in society.
From April 1, 2021, "The Dying Alone Prevention Act" has been in effect. Loneliness, when one is cut off from family and socially isolated, is emerging as a social problem in Korea.
The reason for the enactment of this Law is the need to carry out a systematic policy at the national level— investigating the exact status of persons dying alone and establishing a support system through systematic investigation and research, to prevent persons from dying alone and promote the welfare of the citizens.
How bad was the situation that required a law to prevent people from dying alone? What surprised the columnist was when she searched the data dying alone occurred frequently not only among the elderly but also among the young and the middle-aged. The increase in the incidence of persons dying alone is related to changes in the make-up of the family.
The number of single-person households in Korea increases every year, and according to the Ministry of Public Administration, an analysis of the current status of the resident population at the end of June 2020, single-person households account for 38.5% (8,768,414 households). Single-person households have increased by nearly 3 million in about two years.
Single-person households are increasing due as delayed employment and late marriage for young people, and relatively high divorce rates for middle-aged people, family breakdown, a spouse taking care of children studying overseas. As Korea becomes an aging society, the number of single-person households aged 65 or older is increasing by 70,000 every year, and the number of dying alone will increase rapidly.
It is said that 31% of the deaths of persons without relations in Seoul in October 2020 were found in small single rooms and places of study. The causes for dying alone are the breakdown of the family network, which leads to divorce, non-marriage, death of a spouse resulting in psychological loneliness, depression, due to social interruption, and isolation.
Economic poverty and increased burden of medical expenses are also reasons for dying alone. Before the death, there was a life of 'poverty and 'isolation'. Therefore, the national and local governments' plan to establish policies necessary to actively protect those at risk from dying alone, laying the foundation for public care. She hopes many will be interested in how to prevent those who are dying alone.
Isolation occurs on a personal level, but also between generations. Pope Francis announced on January 31 this year the institution of a Church-wide celebration of a World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. Starting this year, it will be held on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the liturgical memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. This gives us even in the church the need to be concerned for the elderly and to do so immediately. In the non-face-to-face era, she hopes that specific, practical, and creative plans will begin to increase within the church.