More than half of all those who died in the Japanese earthquake were over 65.The Asahi Shimbun reports that “on 7,935 of the roughly 13,000 deaths confirmed by police headquarters in 12 affected prefectures, and whose ages were identified, 4,398, or 55.4 percent were 65 or older.”
The percentage was 56.4 percent in Iwate Prefecture, 54.8 percent in Miyagi Prefecture and 57.7 percent in Fukushima Prefecture.
Basic resident register data show that the ratio of elderly people age 65 and older to the entire population in the three prefectures was between 22 percent and 27 percent. That means that the rate of victimization among the elderly was more than double the percentages of elderly residents in these prefectures.
Geographic and demographic characteristics of the Sanriku coast, formed by jagged inlets and small fishing communities whose populations are both shrinking and aging, played a factor in the high death rate among elderly.
Most victims drowned or died from injuries in the tsunami. Many ended up being washed away by the tsunami while trying to escape, or had no one to help them to safety.