The Japanese government is launching a new program aimed at reducing the burden on caregivers and enabling elderly people to live more independently. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry intends to create around 10 national centers in 2016, which will aid the development of nursing care robots that can meet people’s actual needs.
The expected functions of these nursing care robots includes mobility assistance, which will help elderly people walk and shop on their own, waste disposal, bathing and lifting assistance, and monitoring to ensure the safety of elderly patients with dementia.
In order to promote the development of user-friendly nursing care robots, the Japanese government has provided substantial funding for up to two-third of the research and development costs since 2013. However, most of the companies developing these robots, manufactured products which were either too large or too expensive. The government is therefore planning to create special centers around the country and assign coordinators with knowledge in both nursing care and robotics, who will serve as a bridge between the two fields and reflect the needs of the elderly population.
These centers will be located in the areas where the robotics companies already operate. In 2012, the nursing care robot market in Japan was estimated to be worth about ¥1 billion. Experts, however, believe that its value will jump to the impressive ¥400 billion by 2035.