Japan: Ageing society needs technology and community development

The ageing of society is more advanced in Japan than in Switzerland. Japan has been under corresponding pressure to innovate for some time. A delegation from BFH travelled to Nara Prefectureto exchange views with local experts on how to deal with an ageing society and to discuss cooperation. In view of the severe shortage of skilled workers, which is not in itself a Japanese peculiarity, interest in research on robotics and smart systems is particularly high. Robots have been used in Japan for a long time and seem to be more accepted than in Switzerland. The Japanese use of smart technologies is therefore particularly interesting in relation to the question of the ageing of the population.

Smart solutions to relieve the burden on professionals

The Nara Institute of Science & Technology has a focus on information sciences with topics relevant to ageing. These are very similar to those in Switzerland, such as smart homes and robotic companions. The independent living of fragile elderly people at home is to be supported by sensor-based assistance systems so that one-to-one care becomes unnecessary. While such “smart devices” allow for safer and greater independence for older people, the human factor should not be underestimated: A device, no matter how intelligent, is not a substitute for people, but a support. Competences such as empathy and humour, but also flexibility and adaptability with regard to situations remain reserved for people. New smart technologies offer interesting solutions to support the meaningful relief and optimised use of resources of professionals in care and other sectors. However, community-based solutions should also be considered in order to promote the required human interactions between (older) people.

Community-based solution: the example of Nara

Senior women from Nara in rehabilitation. Photo: zvg)

Nara Prefecture is pursuing the goal of establishing a so-called “Community-Based Integrated Care System” by 2025. Within a certain perimeter, which is based on the school districts, elderly people living at home should be able to be provided with necessary services such as health care, nursing, prevention, etc. within half an hour. This requires that local pharmacies, hospitals, senior citizens’ clubs, community centres and care facilities work closely together. This form of integrated care should make it easier for older people to live and be cared for in their familiar surroundings until the end of their lives. The biggest challenge in Nara Prefecture is also to improve interprofessional cooperation between health and social care professionals. While some are strongly oriented towards the care mandate, others want above all to strengthen the resources of their clients. In addition, there are differences in training, values and terminology, which make the desired more intensive cooperation more difficult. Here, the prefecture focuses on promoting mutual understanding and cooperation. In interprofessional meetings, the professionals get to know each other better while working together on principles for coordinated care and practise working together.

Bridges between hospital and home environment

The Nursing Department of the General Medical Centre emphasises the importance of transitions between the hospital and the home environment, especially for older people. Therefore, a good cooperation between the General Medical Centre and the family doctors is strived for. A Regional Medical Liaison Office is located in the General Medical Centre, regulates the admission of outpatients and is also responsible for the coordination of discharge. For this purpose, all important information is exchanged with the local medical facilities. There is also the role of a care manager who mediates between patients and relatives on the one hand and the medical care system on the other. In Switzerland, too, the shortage of skilled workers in the health sector is becoming more acute, and the future provision of long-term care in particular poses a major challenge. For this reason, ways to relieve the professional nursing staff are also being considered in our country. For example, the term “caring community” is used to describe initiatives that view the care and support of older people as a task for society as a whole and emphasise the value of care networks that enable “ageing in place” locally through the interplay of a wide range of formal and informal services. The efforts of Nara Prefecture in the area of “Community-Based Integrated Care” are therefore also of great interest to Switzerland.

Opportunities for cooperation

Within the framework of a joint research project, a united laboratory “Innovation for the Ageing Society” is to be established. In this lab, practice-relevant topics from the fields of work with the elderly, business and administration in the Canton of Bern and the Nara Prefecture can be dealt with. The research should focus on community-based solutions and how they can be supported by smart technologies in order to optimally promote future technology-supported health care and the most independent life possible for older people.

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AUTHOR: Sabine Hahn

Prof. Dr. Sabine Hahn is a qualified nurse in psychiatry, nursing and health scientist and heads the Nursing Department and the Nursing Research & Development Department at BFH Gesundheit. She conducts research in the areas of quality indicators and quality development, staff competencies and service user involvement, psychosocial health, and technology and health. She is also the focal point officer for healthcare & e-health at the BFH Center Digital Society.

AUTHOR: Jonathan Bennett

Prof. Dr. Jonathan Bennet is head of the Institute of Aging at the BFH Social Work. His research focuses on care in fragile old age, age work in communal social space and aging society.

AUTHOR: Sarah Degallier Rochat

Prof. Dr. Sarah Degallier Rochat is the Head of the strategic thematic field Humane Digital Transformation. Her research interests include the design of inclusive human-machine interfaces, the upskilling of the workforce and the impact of automation and augmentation on work conditions.

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