According to The Asahi Shimbun, companies ranging from shoemakers to railway operators in Japan are offering services to track senile seniors who wander off, a problem that affects more than 10,000 families a year, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Some involve high-tech devices while others promote information sharing to address the problem of missing elderly people in this rapidly graying society.
According to the National Police Agency in Japan, 12,208 seniors with signs of senility went missing in 2015, a 13-percent increase over the previous year. Last year was the third straight in which more than 10,000 senior citizens went missing.
Yokohama-based Tsukui Corp., which provides various care services for elderly people, shoemaker Achilles Corp., and Kato Denki Inc., a manufacturer of security-related electric equipment are involved in a joint project to develop footwear containing small transmitters.
Tsukui on July 15 began a trial run of the shoes at 10 of its care facilities.
When residents with signs of senility leave such facilities wearing the shoes, a receiver can pinpoint their whereabouts by catching electric signals emitted by the transmitters.
The device also sends warning e-mails to care workers as well as family members when a resident leaves the facility.
A pair of shoes with the transmitter costs about 20,000 yen (US$190), while a receiver costs about 40,000 yen (US$380). One receiver can confirm data coming from about 20 pairs of shoes.
Security firm Secom Co. is already providing services to keep track of senior citizens who may wander off. The elderly people carry a mobile device that uses a global positioning system to inform family members about their locations.
Secom services start from 900 yen a month. For an additional fee, specialized workers from the nearest Secom facility are dispatched to find the missing senior citizen if such a request is made.
Sohgo Security Services Co. has a similar service. But it also began a program this spring with some local governments that allows for a less expensive way to keep track of senior citizens by having them carry smaller tags.
In 2007, a senior citizen wandered onto railway tracks and was struck and killed by a train. Central Japan Railway Co. filed a lawsuit against bereaved family members, seeking compensation for the stoppage of operations. But the Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiff on March 1 this year.
That same month, West Japan Railway Co. teamed up with an information technology firm to begin a tracking service using a special app that informs family members and others about the individual’s location.
Aeon Co., the nation’s largest supermarket chain operator, has begun a program to foster employees into supporters for senile elderly people.
Seven-Eleven Japan Co. has signed agreements with local governments to provide information on seniors with signs of senility who wander into its outlets.
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