By Sally Keys
Japan has the highest proportion of seniors in the world, which has significantly influenced elderly care in the country. The mantra of respecting your elders is highly regarded in Japan, making elderly care a struggle at times. Until 2000, publicly-funded social care was practically non-existent in Japan and caring for the elderly was a family responsibility. Even with the increase of elderly care homes and institutions, the negative stigma of putting your parents in a home persists today. Some still believe it is disrespectful and shameful to put your parents in a care facility and therefore, many elderly adults are cared for by their kin at home. To help alleviate the heavy burden on families, the government has taken steps to bring social care to the home.
Government Care System
The government created an incredibly comprehensive long-term care system. In fact, it is seen by many as the most generous long-term care system in the world in terms of coverage and benefits. People start to pay into the system at the age of 40 and can receive benefits at the age of 65. This age limit however, can be lowered in the event of a severe injury or illness. Once a Japanese senior citizen wants to receive the benefits, they apply to the government and the application is reviewed by a municipal employee. If approved, a unique care plan is created for every individual.
Senior Helpers as Part of the Care Plan
Since many Japanese seniors enjoy living at home with their families, the government will send helpers to help ease the burden on other family members. These helpers will come to the home and adapt the home for aging by providing ramps, bars, and lower counter-tops throughout the house. This creates an easily accessible home and allows residents to conduct daily activities without difficulty.
The senior government helpers can also adapt everyday items to fit a senior’s daily needs. For example, they can make containers easy to open or put certain codes on them that are easily distinguishable by touch rather than sight. For hearing impaired seniors, government helpers will install closed captioned televisions in the house and a cell phone texting feature that will notify seniors when their phone is ringing. If needed, government helpers will also do the grocery shopping, give baths, and provide any other supplements the family caregiver cannot.
The Future of Elderly Care
The Japanese Government has embraced technology as the future of home elderly care. Originally the government invested in robot helpers to replace the government human helpers. However, many seniors rejected the robots and preferred a human touch. Therefore, the government has switched to a new project. The government is now investing 7.6 billion yen towards developing technology that will make a human helper more efficient. For example, technology companies has adapted Japan’s high-tech toilets into health monitors which could alert family members of problems when they are away at work or school. Robotic pet seals were also created to help elderly family members cope with the lack of companionship during work and school hours. The seal has replaced the use of psychotropic drugs for many seniors. It has also been reported to reduce wandering by dementia patients and control anxiety, stress, depression, and pain perception. You can expect to see more advanced robots and accessible technology to come as Japan develops towards their growing elderly population.