My Japanese parents are both artists so good design was drilled into us from birth – it didn’t matter if it was a chair or how food was laid out on a plate. It all has an aesthetic balance and must be pleasing to the eye (and tastebuds). When mom had her stroke in 2001, we were hard pressed to find tools for the home that would help her with her mobility but also had good design. Most, if not all the products looked like they came straight from the hospital. Which bears asking – why do hospitals have to use tools which such ugly design?
On one of my annual trips to Japan a few years ago, I found out about the HCR Expo – an annual conference and expo on all things caregiving. It’s no secret that Japan has one of the fastest aging populations in the world so they have really needed to address this problem. And they have feverishly. You will see ‘senior sections’ in every department store now. There are huge online rental houses where you can rent wheelchairs, beds, etc. Senior day care centers have sprung up everywhere.
The Japanese are also known for their clean minimalistic design. I was excited to see what kinds of goods they had on display at the expo this year. They have everything in every category – home modifications, eating utensils, wheelchairs, walkers, vehicles, bathing, clothing, food, and of course robots. You name it, they seem to have everything.
It is certainly one of the largest expos of its kind in the world. For the most part, I was super impressed with the sensibility, design and functionality of most of the products. I can’t say the same for the similar expo I was at in the U.S. It’s always cool to see how other countries tackle the same issue. Of course customs and culture play a big part but always fun to see, touch and feel and get inspired.
I decided to make a highlight reel of some of the fun innovations I discovered at the expo to give you a sense of what is happening in other parts of the world as it relates to aging and caregiving.
I did import a couple of items for a time but it got too time consuming and with the exchange rate and customs fees etc + having boxes in the garage, it didn’t make much sense. BUT if I find that people are responding to certain products that I highlight in the video, I am happy to see how we can make something happen and bring it to the U.S.
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