Making Those Golden Years Shine – Part 2

Just because this subject deserves some extra attention, here’s another post about how we can make life better for elderly people.

Japan is fully immersed in it’s wave of aging baby boomers, and the United States is just entering that reality now.  So, it’s more important than ever that we find ways to age gracefully, and joyfully.

This elder care facility (well, small chain of four facilities) is taking a hard look at what it means to care for someone.  Sometimes, you can help people the most by simply allowing them to help themselves.  That’s the whole concept behind the Lake Village Dream facilities.  They purposely leave common barriers intact so that users can challenge themselves to overcome them.

This facility shows us that when we really pay attention to finding things that people with physical limitations can do on their own, and then allow them to do those things, they recover more quickly.  Not only that, they become more capable, empowered and happy.

The proof is in the pudding.  The first video shows that the rate of nursing care gradient improvement nationwide is 11.5%, but the rate of improvement at Lake Village Dream is 76.9%.  Well done.

Still, the very best part of this story is shown in the second video.  One of the users of this facility used to be a chef, but then lost the use of his left arm due to a brain hemorrhage.  However, at Lake Village Dream he recovered to the point where he could actually go and work at a restaurant again.  The smile on his face as he greets the customers says it all.

Here’s the Japanese synopsis:

常識を変える介護施設”バリア アリー”

一般的な高齢者福祉施設では、手すりを設け段差を無くすといった「バリアフリー」が常識だが、山口県あるデイサービスセンター「夢のみずうみ村」では、階段や段差、坂など日常生活にある障害物があえて配置されている。ここでは「バリアフリー」ではなく「バリアアリー」という常識とは真逆の発想。代表の藤原茂さんは「介護しない介護がある」と言う。ここでは、介助なしでは立ち上がることもできなかった車いす利用の男性が、わずか 1年半で歩けるように回復した例もある。  さらに、ギャンブル性の高い活動も。利用者に大人気なのが「カジノ」。手づくりのダーツ、輪投げ、ルーレット、麻雀までメニューも多い。そこでやり取りされるのは「ユーメ」という施設内通貨。洗濯物をたたんだり、食器を片付けたりしても「ユーメ」が受け取れる。利用者の金銭感覚が刺激され、認知予防にもなるという。利用者は生き生きと楽しみながら、結果としてリハビリをしているという狙いだ。

Here it is in English:

Changing the Common Knowledge of Nursing Homes “With Barriers”
It’s common knowledge that standard practice for elder care facilities includes installing hand rails, eliminating steps, and making them “barrier free”.  But, at the day service center “Lake Village Dream” in Yamaguchi Prefecture obstacles found in daily living such as stairs, steps, and slopes are purposely laid out.  Here, the common phrase is not “barrier free”, but the exact opposite concept, “with barriers”.  Representative, Mr. Shige Fujiwara, says, “Not giving care is a kind of care giving”.  There is the example of a man using a wheelchair who was unable to stand without assistance, but was able walk on his own after just a year and a half of recovery here.
They’re also taking a “gamble” on other activities.  For example, the casino is a big hit with users.  The wide menu of activities also includes dart making, ring-toss games, roulette, and Mah-Jong.  What you’ll see being exchanged here is a thing they call “Yuume”.  If you do things such as fold laundry or put away the dishes, you’ll get some Yuume.  Users are stimulated by the sense of how to use money, and this helps to mitigate dementia.  The goal is to achieve rehabilitation while allowing users to be lively and enjoy themselves.

Here are the video clips:

Making Those Golden Years Shine – Part 1

How many of us give a lot of thought to the living situations of the older folks in our society?  Well, if you have aging parents, you may give a lot of thought to it.  And you may wonder how to help them lead the most satisfying lives possible now and in the future.

At first glance a place like the Smart Community Inage seems idyllic.  There are plenty of interesting activities to participate in, and best of all, great food!  But, this story brings up a very important idea.  While having lots of fun things to do can make life better, there is something that is even more essential.  That essential thing is to be able to live life with a sense of purpose.  I believe that at any age, having the feeling that what you’re doing is meaningful is absolutely necessary if you are to feel fulfillment.

This company president came to understand that fact first hand by talking to his residents, and finding out that what many of them yearn for is to be able to interact with and contribute to society.  One activity that he started in order to meet this request was to have residents do volunteer activities.  The video shows them dancing with a group of people in wheelchairs, and having a great time doing it.  What a great win-win situation for both the residents, and for the wheelchair group.

I think we can all learn a lot from this example.  Let’s find more ways to help the seniors in our lives be engaged and empowered.  Because when they’re happy, we can be happier too.

Here’s the original synopsis:


千葉県にある「スマートコミュニティ稲毛」は、分譲マンションと住民専用の広大な「クラブハウス」から成る。住民は、60〜80代だが、「高齢者施設」のイメージはほとんどない。高級ホテルのような作りと、クラブハウスで毎日行われる「アクティビティ」と呼ばれる趣味のクラブが人気だ。ゴルフ、テニス、フラダンスに和太鼓、コーラスと、その数は30種以上。さらに、朝晩の食事では、老舗日本料理屋「なだ万」の料理人が腕を振るう懐石風料理も食べられる。既存の2棟に加え、4月に3棟目が完成。来年には全部で  5棟に増える予定だ。運営会社の社長は、ゲーム会社「スクウェア・エニックス」の出身だ。初期投資は大きくても、その後のユーザー拡大で回収していくゲームビジネスに似ていると言う。視察や誘致も相次ぐ。 順風満帆に見える生活…しかし、オープンから4年目の今、住民に意外な変化が…設立当初からは考えられなかった声が出始めているという。新たな住民が増えることで要望も多様化。対応を迫られる運営スタッフ。そこで生まれた新発想のシニアライフとは

And here it is in English:

A Luxurious and Popular Senior Living Home….and a Surprising Change With Residents.

In Chiba Prefecture, the “Smart Community Inage” is made up of Condos and an extensive clubhouse for residents.  The residents are 60 to 90 years of age, but you don’t get the impression that it’s an old folks home.  It’s constructed like a high-end hotel, and there are popular clubs called “Activities” that are held in the clubhouse daily.  There are more than 30 clubs including golf, tennis, hula dance, Taiko drumming, and chorus.  Also, morning and evening meals include traditional multi-course cuisine prepared by chefs from the long-standing Japanese restaurant “Nadaman”.  In April, a third location will be added to the two that currently exist, and there are plans to have a total of five locations by next year.  The president of the company is originally from the game maker Square Enix.  He says that the it resembles the game business because the initial investment is large, but costs are recovered by magnifying the number of users.  But, there is still more to these facilities.  Everything seemed to be smooth sailing, but during this fourth year after opening there’s been an unexpected change among residents with feelings that were unimaginable when the home was first established.  As new residents are added their wants and needs also diversify.  The staff are compelled to respond.  What is the new concept of senior living that comes from this?

Also, check out the video:


A New Kind of Water Rescue Boat

We all know that airboats are great for making adrenaline pumping action scenes in movies, but that’s not all they’re good for.  As this man shows us, they are ideal for making water rescues during floods and natural disaster situations.

What makes them so good?  Well, since they are driven by a propeller above water, there is no motor below the surface to get stuck on debris and damaged by shallow rocks.  For these reasons they have been used for water rescues in the United States for a long time.

However, Mr. Sasaki has made some major improvements.  He has designed and built his airboat from scratch with some notable features.  First, there is a large scooper at the front of the craft, which allows the driver to quickly and easily bring someone out in the water, into the boat.  Compare this to trying to drag victims onboard, and it’s easy to see what a huge advantage this is.

Also, it has a self-correcting device that will right the boat in case it gets capsized.  In rough weather, this could mean the difference between lives saved and lives lost.

It seems like floods are becoming more and more common these days, and an innovation such as this could really help us turn the tides on mother nature.

Here’s the original synopsis:



Here it is in English:

Saving Lives in Water Disasters…The World’s First Life-Saving Airboat

During the Tohoku Earthquate there were many precious lives swallowed up and lost in the tsunami and muddy streams.  There were also many people left for long periods of time clinging to rooftops and light poles waiting for help.  It was there that Mr. Kabuto Sasaki, from Touma City in Miyagi Prefecture, stood up and produced the world’s first airboat equipped with life-saving functionalities.  Airboats are commonly used in America for leisure, and for rescue, but they are almost non-existent in Japan.  Mr. Sasaki manufactured this airboat himself.  Not only that, this boat aims to produce some revolutionary features that the world has never seen before such as an apparatus that scoops people from the water, and the ability to automatically correct itself if it capsizes.

Check out the video:

A New “Spin” on Wind Power

Spinning With a Breeze, This Wind Turbine is Getting Noticed Worldwide

“Global Energy” in Iwafune City, Tochigi Prefecture, started out as a subcontracting factory that produced things such as car bumpers.  As the orders they received were dropping sharply, company president Suzuki developed a unique wind turbine blade.
It’s a revolutionary turbine that spins with very little wind.  Furthermore, president Suzuki is striving to design a turbine that will spin with even less wind.

A power generation related company in Korea has recognized his technical accomplishment and is already operating a wind power generation facility using Global Energy’s turbines.

Here’s the original Japanese synopsis:


栃木県・岩舟町にある「グローバルエナジー」は、車のバンパーなどを製作する下請け工場だった。受注の激減で、鈴木社長は独自の羽の形をした風車を開発。 少ない風で回るという画期的な風車だ。そして、さらに鈴木社長は、もっと少ない風でも回る風車の開発に挑戦。その技術力に韓国の電力関連会社が目をつけ、 すでに「グローバルエナジー」の風車を使った風力発電設備が稼働しているという。

Check out the video:

Have you ever looked at all those huge wind power turbines popping up across the landscape and wondered, “I wonder if there are other ways to design those?”.  Well, if you’re like me, then you’ve never given them a second thought! But, this man from Tochigi Prefecture has given them plenty.

Not only do these things look cool, but the experiment he does here speaks for itself.  He points a couple of electric fans toward a regular wind turbine first, and then to his cylindrical ones.  While the regular turbine stops spinning as soon as the wind stops, his cylindrical design spins long after he turns off the fans.  If that’s not enough, the largest version of the turbines, which are 7m in length, will spin and generate power with just 1 meter/hour of wind blowing.  Wow!

Now, this is not just an experimental product.  Mr. Suzuki’s company, Global Energy, has licensed their turbine to a venture capital company in Korea for $2.5 million.

I have to say though, the thing that impresses me the most about Mr. Suzuki is his attitude toward the work that he’s put into developing this new turbine.  The narrator points out the 4,000 prototypes that are sitting in his scrap yard, and this is what he has to say:

“Not a single thing in this world is wasted. Most people say that when things don’t go well, it’s called a failure. But I believe that when things don’t go well, it’s a discovery. If you quit on your idea halfway, then that’s the failure.”

Here, Here!  Well said, sir.  I believe that attitude really sums up the spirit of not only entrepreneurship and innovation, but of any type of progress.

Water Purification with Fermented Soybean Powder

This is one of the all-time great ideas presented on Gaia no Yoake.  Mr. Kanetoshi developed this simple and inexpensive method for making clean drinking water anywhere, anytime.  All you have to do is mix the powdered Natto in to dirty water from streams, lakes, or wherever and you end up with drinkable water in a few seconds.  This can be used in emergency situations, and in areas of the world where clean drinking water is hard to come by, like parts of India and Africa.

Here is the synopsis in Japanese:

バングラデシュで浄化剤を使ってみせる小田会長 6月の放送でも取り上げた浄化剤メーカーの「日本ポリグル」。


We’re looking at the water purification maker “Nihon Polyglu”, which we also presented in our June broadcast.
By mixing one spoonful of the purification powder into water from dirty ponds, etc. the toxic substances such as arsenic and other impurities bind with the powder and settle on the bottom.  This revolutionary substance has the power to turn such water clear.
In our previous broadcast we followed company president Kanetoshi Oda as he headed out on his own to Bangladesh, a country with considerably poor water services reaching only 10% of the population.
In Bangladesh water-borne illnesses are not uncommon with people using pond water and muddied well water for drinking.
Mr. Oda went to an area hit hardest by a cyclone and set up a water purification station to make drinking water from a pond.
The villagers and children were ecstatic to see something they were not used to seeing, clean water.
But, there’s a problem.  The purification powder can’t be provided without compensation forever.  And, the aim is to bring this to even more people.  It’s necessary to collect some money so that this assistance can be provided continuously.
So, Mr. Oda went back to Bangladesh and cooperated with the locals in a project to further spread the use of the the purification powder.  Mr. Oda said, “We can’t just try to sell this to wealthy people with enough money to buy bottled water, we need to make it available to people without money”.  If he can create a successful model in Bangladesh, he can help others in countries without clean drinking water.  Will he be able to make it a reality?

Here’s the Video:

Don’t Push Wheelchairs, Pull Them!

I’m very excited to be sharing the very first post to Japanese Innovations!  This idea is really representative of the purpose of the website.  It’s a novel, simple, and highly impactful idea.  It is also something that has the power to make life better for those who need it most.  

This comes from what will likely be a foundational source of ideas for the blog.  It is a popular documentary TV show in Japan called “Gaia no Yoake”, or Dawn of Earth.  Here is the synopsis in Japanese, with the English translation following.



English:                                                                                                               Don’t Push Wheelchairs, Pull Them!…What is This Ground Breaking Apparatus?    

During the Tohoku Earthquake there was a large number of people in wheelchairs that couldn’t get to safety in time and lost their lives. So, Mr. Masayoshi Nakamura came up with an attachment that allows one to pull a wheelchair like a rickshaw, rather than push it.  The local government has been using this product in disaster exercises, and is keeping it at the ready in preparation for a large earthquake from the Nankai Sea.  Mr. Nakamura has also realized that there are some places that you can only go to by pulling a wheelchair, not just by pushing it.  Knowing that this can be used for things like sightseeing, in addition to disaster situations, he has been working hard to promote it far and wide.                     

Isn’t that a great idea?!  Please watch the video and let me know what you think.  Unfortunately, it’s only in Japanese.  Mr. Nakamura was driven to create this out of his desire to help his little brother as a child, and now he’s able to help many others with his invention.  If there’s anyone out there that uses a wheelchair, I’d love to hear what your reaction to this is.

Here’s the Video: