With the nation facing an increasingly elderly population, the number of crimes committed by senior citizens has risen.
Earlier this year, police uncovered a drug ring in Nantou County’s Lugu Township (鹿谷) that was headed by an elderly woman, surnamed Chen (陳). The 70-year-old confronted police when she was arrested, saying that her pension was inadequate to cover her daily expenses.
Police uncovered 21 packs of amphetamines and seven bullets at her home and discovered that all members of her ring were under the age of 30.
In a separate case, a terminally ill elderly man confessed on Oct. 23 to having set fire to a room in the Beimen branch of the government-run Sinying Hospital in Greater Tainan earlier that day.
The incident left 12 dead and 60 injured.
The 69-year-old unmarried colon cancer patient reportedly attributed his attack mainly to “feeling bad and unhappy.”
According to data released by the National Police Agency (NPA), more than 4,000 criminal cases involving elderly people were recorded in 2002. The number has increased steadily and reached a peak of 8,964 in 2010. The number dropped to 7,126 last year and 6,103 cases have been reported as of Oct. 15 this year.
Most senior citizen-related criminal cases involve theft, gambling and endangering public safety, NPA officials said.
In Tainan, eight elderly men in a residential community were accused of sexually assaulting a junior-high school student many times over the past four years. The case was not exposed until the girl recently became pregnant.
A study on crimes committed by people over the age of 60 found that those aged between 60 and 64 are more prone to breaking the law.
In addition, the study showed that crime rates were highest among junior-high school graduates or dropouts and most elderly criminals were from low-income families or lived in poverty.
Money-related crimes such as gambling, theft and fraud topped the list of criminal activities elderly people were likely to commit, followed by murder, assault and rape.
Commenting on an increasing number of reports of criminal cases involving senior citizens, an expert on the elderly said that the days when senior citizens enjoyed relatively carefree lives are gone.
The director of the mental health department at Datong Municipal Hospital in Greater Kaohsiung, Huang Chun-jen (黃俊仁), said the lives of elderly people today are filled with anxiety and uncertainty, and many senior citizens suffer ill health.
“Many senior citizens either live alone or with their unemployed children and face heavy social and economic pressure. With the lack of proper channels to release their emotions, some elderly citizens opt to commit suicide or commit crimes,” Huang said.
According to Huang, many of his patients complained about suffering from physical pains and insomnia.
“However, examinations show that most of them have emotional problems that have often been neglected by their family members and themselves,” Huang said.
“Such emotional problems, if not dealt with properly, could eventually drive them to commit crimes,” he said.
Noting that dementia and other disorders could also lead to a loss of a sense of morality or result in people acting on whims, Huang said family members and social welfare organizations should show more concern for the well- being of senior citizens.
Some experts said unfamiliarity with new technology, child-parent alienation and the lack of social interaction in an urban environment have also contributed to the plight of elderly people.
The government and academic institutions should devote more effort to researching problems related to aging, experts said.