by Mark Ollig
In 2000, senior citizens 65 and over represented 12.4 percent of our country’s population.
Statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services say this percentage will rise to 19 percent in 15 years.
They calculate by 2025, there will be 72 million more people over age 65, than there were in 2000.
Japan has been addressing this growing segment of their own population, by testing various robotic technologies to assist their increasingly elderly populace.
In fact, Robear, a new experimental 300-pound nursing care robot for humans, is now being tested in Japan.
With its cute-looking bear face, the strong Robear is able to gently lift a person out of a bed, help them to stand up, assist putting them into a chair, and even carry them.
Recently, tech giants IBM and Apple computer, along with Japan Post;,Japan’s largest employer with interests in focusing resources on the aging, formed an alliance.
This alliance will assess technology focused on improving the lives of older adults.
The three companies jointly announced special senior citizen software applications (apps) will be designed and incorporated into Apple’s iPad devices.
A population projection from Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research showed their country’s 65 and over population in 2010 was approximately 29.5 million.
By 2040, this number will increase to almost 39 million.
The United States Census Bureau statistics showed in 2010, there were 40.3 million age 65 and better.
By 2040, the US will have about 81.3 million citizens age 65 and over, per current US Census estimations.
By 2050, the US Census predicts those 65 and over will rise to 88.5 million, more than doubling the number of those 65 and over, in 2010.
“The aging of the population will have wide-ranging implications for the country,” predicted the US Census in the report I was reading.
It went on to say; “The aging of the older population is noteworthy, as those in the oldest ages often require additional care giving and support.”
One can understand then, why new technology is being developed for assisting our growing senior population.
It was disclosed during a press conference that Apple, IBM, and Japan Post will be using Japan as the testbed country for their experiment.
Special apps for assisting seniors’ day-to-day activities include: health monitoring, personalized medicine-taking with reminders, shopping from home, family member communications, and other yet-to-be created senior citizen apps.
These special apps will be pre-installed in the approximately 5 million iPads Japanese seniors will receive.
IBM will be providing special “cloud” services, which includes improving its Apple mobile iOS platform handling, and creating apps to be used in the iPads.
“Many countries will be facing the same situation soon,” said Taizo Nishimuro, CEO of Japan Post, during the press conference he attended with Apple CEO Tim Cook, and IBM CEO Virginia Rometty.
Cook gave an example of the benefits senior citizens can get from using an iPad for improving their lives, by mentioning Edith Kirchmaier, a 107-year-old who is the oldest known person using an iPad.
“I use the Internet when I’m interested in something, or someone. I find it very educational,” Kirchmaier said during an interview with The New York Daily Times in 2013.
Kirchmaier is also the oldest person using Facebook. She currently has 60,071 followers. Her Facebook page is: http://on.fb.me/1KOD6lf.
“Today is about reimagining life for what is the largest generation in human history – seniors,” Rometty said.
She also mentioned, everyday 10,000 people in this country turn 65, and by 2050, one in five people in the world will be a senior citizen.
The special “senior-citizen equipped” Apple iPads will be distributed to Japanese elders over a five-year period; using Japan Post’s personnel to handle their delivery, and setup.
If this iPad-Seniors program is successful in Japan, it could be made available globally.
I wanted to get some feedback about this project, so I asked my mom what she thought of it.
Of course, I very much respect the opinion of my mother.
She listened intently while I somewhat competently explained how seniors would be using Apple iPads in Japan.
I told her these special iPad apps would have large, easy-to-read buttons, adjustable vision and audible settings, and specific features seniors would find useful.
Mom nodded, and then quickly said to me, “Oh, I’m too old to mess with all that.”
I paused; not knowing how to respond, as all of the built-up enthusiasm I felt while explaining this to her suddenly came crashing to the ground.
For some reason, I recalled the words spoken by the radio reporter Herb Morrison, who witnessed and described the famous Hindenburg airship crash of 1937.
His words: “Oh, it’s crashing to the ground!” piercingly sounded in my mind.
However; on the bright side, mom still likes the idea of robotic-assistants.
A video by WXYZ TV channel 7 in Detroit shows Japan’s Robear robot in action. It can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/p9q9vtd.