Japan is the longest-lived country on Earth. Some researchers estimate that a quarter of the Japanese population will have dementia by 2045.
Japan is putting an increased focus on helping people with dementia “age in place” — instead of consigning them to nursing homes — in hopes of improving their quality of life and lessening the load on overtaxed care facilities. People have more freedom to walk outside the home, but unfortunately many of them can become disoriented and get lost.
But as more people with dementia live at home, digital solutions have been put in place in some towns.
Those range from the more intrusive, such as security cameras and tracking devices that can be slipped into a shoe, to more passive options like QR codes that can go on a fingernail and alert caregivers when scanned. The cameras themselves don’t track people. They are equipped with receivers that communicate with small beacons carried by those enrolled in the program. When bearers of the beacons pass by, the device records their position and sends it to a smartphone app that an authorized caregiver can check.
Despite fears of government surveillance, I think that this is a really good program. There’s nothing like it in the U.S. that I’m aware of.
DH told me about how he met an elderly man parked at the side of the road in California. The man had dementia and had driven his car to an unfamiliar area where he was stuck since he didn’t know how to get home. The people in the house the man had parked in front of didn’t want to get involved. DH got the police to help the man get home. He was shocked at the lack of compassion by the home owners.
Many Americans are placed in assisted living and medicated to prevent them from wandering. I think that the Japanese surveillance system is far preferable to this.
Where a Thousand Digital Eyes Keep Watch Over the Elderly
As Japan rapidly ages, it is envisioning fundamental changes, even in infrastructure. Is electronic surveillance an answer to its epidemic of dementia?