Announced this month, Apple, Inc. and IBM are coming together on a new project that will bring iPads and custom apps to Japan’s aging seniors. The companies are using Japan as the launch pad for their new system before possibly expanding the program to other countries. The country is a perfect place to test out the new system because by 2055, experts estimate that almost forty percent of Japan’s population will be senior citizens and already over one-quarter of its residents are 65 years old or older.
New Technology for Japan’s Elderly
The two American companies announced a partnership with Japan Post Group, the country’s largest health and life insurance company, to bring specialized iPads and apps to the nation’s elderly. The goal of the partnership is to connect millions of Japan’s seniors with services and tools that they need to stay healthy and in their homes. The CEO of Japan Post Group admitted that “Among all the nations in the world, the issue of aging generations is most active in Japan. We need real solutions.”
The system will run on an iPad and include all of the computer’s regular apps in addition to specialized elder care apps designed specifically by the group. The system will have access to the healthcare data of the millions of seniors that are using the service; however, they will have the option to opt out of this if they do not wish to share that information. In addition, medical professionals and support will be available through Watson’s cloud-based analytics, as well.
Purpose of the New System
Apple and IBM have gone on the record as saying that the purpose of this new system is to address elder care needs on a global scale. “”We will dramatically improve the lives of millions… sooner or later most every country on face of earth will encounter this issue,” said the CEO of Apple Tim Cook. The goal of the new program is to “build a service that not only we can be proud of, but will leave a dent in the universe.”
The rollout of the program in Japan will be slow, but given its large population of elderly citizens the country is the best option to test the program. It will begin by integrating in with Japan Post’s exiting “Watch Over” service that provides in-person check ins for elderly citizens that live alone. The program will be integrated into the iPad program with a large, clear interface and simple buttons to choose options. These options include getting information on healthcare, keeping in touch with family, accessing friends and relatives, and a button that can immediately call for help.
In addition, features that already exist on an iPad can help seniors get more access to things that they need. Large type, closed captioning, dictation apps, and Siri can all help seniors with their everyday elder care needs. The group plans to add more customized elder care apps as the program progresses, but they have not revealed at this time what those apps or services might entail.