In one of the earlier blog, I introduced the Japanese word ‘kodokushi’ which has gained much media attention in the recent years in Japan.
Recognized as a serious social problem, the Japanese local governments have been active in planning strategies to reduce ‘kodokushi’ incidences, of which a well-known slogan called “ ’kodokushi’ zero operation” is said to have originated from a local district after the skeletal remains of an older resident who had died alone was only discovered three years later.
The local Japanese districts have indeed been stepping up on ‘operations’ to curb ‘kodokushi’, I mentioned a guarantee plan initiated in Fukuoka city earlier.
Last week, I also learnt from a friend living in Urasoe city where Disneyland is situated that she will be included in a pilot project initiated by the city government to install movement detectors in various areas in the residences of seniors living alone so that lack of movement could be detected early to prevent ‘kodokushi’. We discussed about the merits and demerits of the system, and it was interesting that my friend questioned its effectiveness in households which keep pets, an increasingly common scenario in Japan; “Can it distinguish between movements of people and others, like robot cleaners, and the movements of pets?”
In Singapore, technology is also increasingly explored to substitute the absence of caregivers in senior-only households. Video cameras linking to the children’s mobile phones and laptops, are one of the commonly used gadget for monitoring seniors who are alone at home.
While it is a convenient monitoring device, still, nothing beats face-to-face communication and show of concerns. Hence, constant human presence is still the best prevention. Let's just hope that these substitutes could save lives.
Dr. Thang Leng Leng
National University of Singapore (NUS)
(Writer is a member of iCare Life Advisory Board)