Japan’s population is the oldest on average in the world, with over 27 percent of its population aged over 65 and the highest average life expectancy at 83.7 years. Writer Shiho Fukada spent a year researching aging tech supported by the Pulitzer Center. In STAT, he profiles innovation in two areas we’ve highlighted previously: VR experiences for those who are restricted in their mobility and the effect of robots in elder care.
Bringing experiences to the older person. A Tokyo therapist, Kenta Toshima, takes videos of his travels to 29 countries and 55 cities, then shares them with his patients on a smartphone mounted on an inexpensive cardboard viewer to simulate full VR. His concept, Virtually Able, has positive results and he is trying to develop a study. Yet in the US, Dr. Sonya Kim has been developing this in a commercial model via OneCaringTeam and Aloha VR. [TTA 21 Nov 16 and 11 Nov 17] These VR experiences for residents of long-term care are being researched for easing anxiety, increasing positive feelings, stimulation, and connectedness in older people with mobility difficulties or dementia, with Cedars-Sinai in LA evaluating VR for pain reduction with mixed results.
Robotics in monitoring and connectedness. It’s another look at Palro and Pepper [TTA 24 Oct 17], this time in action at the Flos Higashi-kojiya Senior Care Facility in Tokyo, at a nursing home run by the Social Welfare Corporation of Tokyo Seishinkai, and in a home with an older couple. Robots, as we’ve noted, are stepping in the care and connectedness gap.
- For older adults living at home by themselves, interactive robots like Pepper can aid with tasks but as you’ll see in the video, the wide-eyed Pepper becomes a ‘daughter-bot’ (left and above from the video) that remarkably increases engagement between this older couple in a typically crowded Japanese home.
- In Japan, as in the West, there’s a shortage of care staff able to engage with residents in senior living. In the video, Palro struts across a table to the admiration of a group of older women in assisted living and leads them in an exercise routine.
- In a Tokyo nursing home, a Guardian desktop robot not only monitors the well-being of patients in nursing care using audio and video, but also communicates interactively with the patient to give a feeling of personal attention and encouragement. Mr. Fukada at 06:14 quotes a study that residents living with robots are 50 percent more active and that 70 percent without robots are less active, but unfortunately this is not footnoted.
What is evident is that Japan continues to pioneer in robotics for care of older adults and in general (CES), but the takeup in other countries, with some exception for Europe, is not that great–yet. Previously in TTA: Japan’s workarounds for adult care shortage, Japan’s hard lessons on an aging population