Aichi university, Toyota in joint project for robot-aided seniors complex

Chunichi Shimbun

Fujita Health University in Toyoake, Aichi Prefecture, is partnering with Toyota Motor Corp. to open a Robotic Smart Home — a base for nursing robots at the Toyoake apartment complex — next spring.

As the nation approaches a “superaging” society when the baby boomer generation turns 75 years old and above, the project aims to develop small robots that can be easily installed in small Japanese houses, with the cooperation of residents.

The Toyoake housing complex opened in 1971 and currently has some 4,500 residents. But 45 years after its completion, the facility’s occupants are now predominantly elderly with 26.2 percent aged over 65.

In 2014, the university signed a comprehensive agreement on nursing care and medical services with the city of Toyoake and the Urban Renaissance Agency.

Based on the agreement, the university opened the Fujita Machikado clinic within the complex to provide group exercise classes as part of preventive care. It also encourages its students to live in vacant rooms at the complex and interact with the residents.

The nursing robot project, meanwhile, started with the aim of supporting elderly people living in their own homes.

By next spring, the complex’s meeting room will be renovated into a 75-sq.-meter showroom that replicates one of its living rooms.

The university, together with Toyota and Moritoh Corp., a nursing care lift manufacturer in Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture, will focus on developing robots that can assist people in moving within the house or using a toilet, the kind of help often requested by elderly people receiving nursing care at home.

To be displayed at the showroom will be robots that can perform activities such as getting drinks and opening a curtain, as well as a system that allows people to participate in exercise classes remotely via a TV screen.

Elderly residents will be invited to the showroom to try using the robots starting in fall 2017, and the project team will clarify issues that need to be resolved before putting the devices on the market.

“Most of the nursing robots available now are large and not very suitable to move around in small houses,” said Eiichi Saito, vice president of the university. Saito, who is in charge of the project, has also collaborated with Toyota in the past in developing robots for rehabilitation and walking assistance.

“We want to build a nursing robot and a living space where elderly people can live comfortably,” he said.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on June 17.

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