Japan as aging bellwether: experiential VR, claim that robots increase activity by 50 percent

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 17These 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.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Pepper-daughter.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]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

 

One Caring Team testing virtual reality for dementia and depression treatment, relief

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/vr-elderly-2_wide-af9c501d8fea7232e366e38b699ee41ee4040334-s1500-c85.jpg” thumb_width=”250″ /]A San Francisco-based company, One Caring Team, is visiting Bay Area seniors with a treatment that is also a treat–virtual reality headsets that recreate a beach or other relaxing environment. VR has been used with Microsoft Kinect in game-playing in assisted living communities, but the physician-founder Sonya Kim is seeking to give a break most to those older people with dementia or depression. They no longer can travel and their world has grown very small. VR gives them an opportunity to hear and see things they haven’t in a long time, if ever. Versions being tested have both a VR picture, narration on screen and audio; versions for dementia patients skip written ‘bubbles’. The point is to have the clients/patients feel safe, relaxed and welcomed. Some of the results have been that patients start to speak, interact with the pictures intuitively and be more alert, with lasting effects between VR visits. Formal studies have been done in other settings for pain management and for rehab, but this is a new company and concept. One problem is cost: $850 for each Samsung Gear VR headset plus the Galaxy smartphone, but if anything help on VR and social funding is easy to find the Bay Area; founder of the Virtual World Society, the University of Washington’s virtual interface pioneer Dr. Tom Furness, is now One Caring Team’s acting chief technology officer. Washington Post, NPR, F6S.com (Photo from One Caring Team via NPR)