In recent times, you may have been seeing the term “hyper-aged society” in relation to Japan quite frequently. Based on the United Nations report that originally defined the term “aging society” as a society in which 7-14% of the population are 65 years or older, “hyper-aged society” refers to that in which 21% or more of the population are 65 years or older. Japan is the first country in the world to reach this state. The phenomenon will not be unique to Japan for very long however, with countries in the EU as well as the US closely behind in Japan’s footsteps, followed by Korea, Singapore, China, and later, the ASEAN countries and India. The United Nations Fund for Population Activities reported in 2012 that 1 in 9 people in the world are now over the age of 60, but it will be 1 in 5 people by the year 2050.
■Biological change due to aging
The human body faces many biological challenges with aging. Interviews with elderly people reveal that many of them are experiencing decline in vision, hearing, and motor ability. The ‘aging suit’ is a device that simulates the physical conditions of the elderly, enabling younger people to experience how difficult each and every movement in daily life is for older people. It is clear that as biological capability decreases with age, the range of things people can do on their own becomes increasingly limited.
A cross-sectional long term epidemiological study by Professor Hiroko Akiyama of The Institute of Gerontology, The University of Tokyo, and others has been following more than 5000 people over the age of 65 for nearly 20 years. This study has shown so far that nearly 90% of women become less and less able to do things on their own starting from around the age of 70, and that the capability most women lose first is motor capability.
■KAITEKI for an aged society
With the elderly population increasing around the world, a critical question to ask now is, “how can we make a society in which people can lead a KAITEKI life into old age”?
Taking the example of motor capability, one solution is to establish infrastructure that can aid individuals’ efforts to maintain physical health and functions, as well as support the various aspects of declining motor capability, making it easier for elderly people to move around and be physically independent.
At The KAITEKI Institute (TKI), we envision a future society in which people can engage in work and social activities throughout their lives, and maintain high QOL (quality of life) into old age. We are striving to contribute to the realization of a KAITEKI future society, in which old age will be welcomed by people as a joyous and fulfilling period in their lives.
Pattern of change in women’s degree of independence in daily life
－20 year follow-up study of elderly people in Japan (N=2788)―
Source: Hiroko Akiyama, “Thoughts on science and society in the age of longevity” in Kagaku, Iwanami Books, 2010
Experiencing the “aging suit,” which simulates the physical sensation of old age. Weights on hands and feet limit motion, special glasses decrease vision, and gloves make hands difficult to move freely.