National

Japan's Unicharm develops world's first diapers for elderly with walking difficulties

Kyodo

Unicharm Corp. has developed the world’s first adult diapers designed to help elderly people with walking difficulties move more easily.

The product, to go on sale in Japan on Feb. 4, addresses a market need spurred on by the nation’s rapidly graying population, according to Unicharm officials.

In the Japanese market, adult diapers have outsold baby diapers since 2011. The domestic adult diaper market has been growing at an annual rate of 5 percent and is expected to expand.

Aging causes abdominal muscles to weaken, shifting the body’s natural center of gravity forward, thus making it more difficult to walk. But Unicharm’s diaper stabilizes the pelvis through a special sheet that increases pressure around the stomach and improves the ability to stretch armpit muscles, the company says.

The diapers’ effectiveness was confirmed based on the improved ease with which users raised their legs and the lengthening of their steps, according to Unicharm, which has developed the product in collaboration with the Hyogo University of Health Sciences.

“It appears that the diaper helps the wearer stand straighter,” said Kotaro Kawaguchi, a professor of orthopedic and sports physical therapy at the university’s School of Rehabilitation.

“Being able to move on their own improves their quality of life,” Kawaguchi said.

Unicharm’s newest product is priced at ¥1,600 ($15) for a pack of 18 medium-sized diapers for those with a waist size of 60 to 85 centimeters or 16 large-size diapers for those with a waist size of 75-100 cm.

A variety of adult diapers cater to domestic consumers, with mainstream ones having thin pads. A selling point for Kao Corp.’s adult diapers is that they are soft, using its technology developed for baby diapers.

Daio Paper Corp. sells products featuring the prevention of leaking from around the legs.

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