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Asia Minute: Elder Care Lessons from Japan?

Individual Design / Flickr
Individual Design / Flickr

Census figures show residents of Hawai‘i are living longer than ever before…and that’s bringing a variety of challenges. From traffic safety to health issues, k?puna care is a focus for a growing number of local families. And there may be some lessons from another place dealing with an aging population: Japan. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

In Japan, the demographics of an aging population have pushed the development of certain technologies—and a new one may be coming.  A city north of Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture is experimenting with tracking elderly dementia patients—by using wearable barcodes.  The barcodes go on tiny stickers—smaller than a postage stamp.

The stickers are worn on a fingernail and a toenail—so there’s no chance of anyone losing a piece of identification or forgetting to bring a wallet.  The QR code on the sticker includes the person’s name and address and emergency medical information.  They’re designed as a safety check for older residents suffering from dementia ….who sometimes wander away from their homes.   Tests show the QR codes can last as long as two weeks at a time…and for now, the government’s giving them out for free.

Japan’s also taking a look at aging drivers and road safety.  The number of licensed drivers 75 or older has nearly doubled over the last decade in Japan.  Last month a cabinet-level emergency conference was held to discuss traffic accidents involving elderly drivers.  License renewal requirements have been boosted for older drivers—who now need to take a series of tests including short-term memory and image recognition.  One measure under consideration: increasing the frequency of those tests.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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