JAPAN: Government eyes robots to support aging population

The Japanese government is giving out US$25.3 million in subsidies to encourage more companies and universities to develop robots to care for the elderly population.  It wants them to focus on catering to the country’s more urgent needs, rather than developing futuristic robots.

 Japanese researchers are racing against time to build robots smart enough to serve the needs of the elderly in a country in which 40 percent of the population will be over 65 by 2055.  Currently,  Japan is home to the world’s fastest aging population, with 24 per cent or 30 million people already over the age of 65.

As Japan’s population grows older and its labor force shrinks, researchers say new types of robots will play a major role as there simply won’t be enough people to do everyday jobs.  There was a shocking report by a Health Ministry study group that 15 per cent of those over 65, or a total 4.6 million people, have dementia.  The problem has prompted more Japanese companies to come up with safety and security-related products for the elderly.

If promising new technologies continue to develop, Japan may consider exporting them to other countries facing a similar aging population. 

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