An elderly man stands before closed shops on June 14, 2023 at Kirigaoka 1-chome district, one of the area's in Tokyo with a high rate of residents aged 65 years old or over. Franck Robichon, EPA-EFE
Japan has one of the highest proportions of elderly citizens in the world. In June 2023, data from the government's Statistics Bureau show that 29.1 percent of the population is aged 65 and older.
Local residents cross a street on June 20, 2023 near a metropolitan housing building of Higashi-kojiya 6-chome district, another area of Tokyo with the highest rate of residents aged 65 years old or over. Franck Robichon, EPA-EFE
According to projections by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, 38.4 percent of the total population will be elderly by 2065. This is already resulting in an increased demand for healthcare services, long-term care facilities and a need for products adapted to the elderly population care and daily life.
An elderly walks through the lobby of a metropolitan housing building of Higashi-kojiya 6-chome district on June 20, 2023. Franck Robichon, EPA-EFE
The so-called 'Genkai shuraku' (literally marginal hamlet) refers to any village, hamlet or district within a city that experiences depopulation largely because more than half of the people living there reach the age of 65 and over. According to the latest census, Tokyo has 15 'marginal hamlets' out of approximately 3,000 towns and districts in its 23 wards.
A communication robot, Palro, stands at the entrance of Shintomi nursing home in Tokyo, Japan on April 7, 2023. Franck Robichon, EPA-EFE
Since 2015, and with financial aid from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo-based nursing home operator Silver Wing Social Welfare Corp has been actively promoting the introduction of caregiving robots to improve the quality of life of some 30 elderly people, used by about 70 caregiving staff members.
Shintomi nursing home residents react as Pepper, a humanoid robot, sings and dances for them during a recreational session in Tokyo, Japan, April 7, 2023. Franck Robichon, EPA-EFE
Among the newly introduced robotics related tools are communication robots Palro and Pepper, which allow interaction between residents and the machines. The humanoid robot Pepper provides recreational exercise sessions, such as singing and dancing.
Interactive robots named Paro are plugged to be charged at Shintomi nursing home in Tokyo, Japan, May 28, 2023. Franck Robichon, EPA-EFE
Silver Wing Social Welfare Corp. Chairman Kimiya Ishikawa explained to EPA that "the usage of communication robots may help to combat dementia, but further research is still needed."
A staff member, wearing a Laevo exoskeleton, installs on a resident's lap therapeutic robot Paro at Shintomi nursing home in Tokyo, Japan on October 3, 2023. Franck Robichon, EPA-EFE