old population

The Elderly Population



suburb routine outnumber
hope mirror demographics
broad forever counterpart
dense sharp (2) pressure (2)
urban sharply particularly
rural demand consequences
urgent facility so-called
staff senile estimated
symptom innovate dementia
suffer alleviate staggering
burden require caregiver
tray transfer opportunity
calm pose (2) mundane













It’s early in the morning at the ITS Table Tennis Club in the Tokyo suburb of Nataka.

The youngest player is 75; the oldest is 91.

This group of elderly players meets twice every week. It’s a routine they’ve followed for many years.

Player: “We make a lot of friends though table tennis. That’s why I love table tennis.

Maybe I’ll continue to play table tennis — forever. I hope so.”

The membership of this table tennis club holds up a mirror to the broader demographics of Japan.

The younger members are greatly outnumbered by their older counterparts.

Currently, more than a quarter of Japanese people are over the age of 65.

And the cost of care is rising sharply.

Japan was the first country to experience the pressures of an aging society.

But more than 100 nations will soon face similar problems.

Professor Hiroyuki Murata: “By 2030, most countries on the Earth, except some countries in Africa, will become so-called “aging societies”.

Japan’s increasingly urban population mean’s the country’s growing elderly is growing particularly rapidly in larger cities.

Withing the next 15 years, more than half of Japan’s elderly will live in densely populated areas.

And already, there have been consequences.

Sadao Miyanaga, Nursing Home Manager: “Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, those big cities have many facilities for old people. So we urgently need a plan on how to support the situation with the elderly people.”

Sadao Miyanaga is worried. He feels there simply isn’t enough staff, funds and care centers to support elderly people in larger cities like Tokyo.

Sadao Miyanaga: “There is a great demand for group homes. In Tokyo there are 400 homes. But we need 800 now.”

It’s estimated that by 2015, there will be 2.5 million Japanese people living with some form of senile dementia.

With the nation’s care needs set to grow to such staggering levels, the situation is already forcing caregivers to innovate.

Sadao Miyanaga: “There are a few methods we can use to alleviate symptoms of dementia. We have choices like study therapy. And there is also a communication robot to help sufferers.”

It may look like a simple doll, but Kawachan can speak, sing, and even make small movements.

It’s programmed with 400 phrases — including instructions for gymnastics exercises.

The introduction of Kawachan has had good results in several care homes. And staff say their work burden has eased. Patients have become calmer.

As the elderly population increases, more staff is required to treat them.

This is creating a financial burden for hospitals.

But several large corporations like Panasonic think they have the answer: robotic equipment.

They are investing heavily in care-support technology that they say can save hospitals money.

Yukihiko Kitano, Panasonic Engineer: “Basically the trays with medicine are prepared the day before. And then they are transferred to the patients, by our robots, on demand.

Despite the challenges the aging population poses to society, these Japanese companies see it as an opportunity for growth.

They believe in their new technology’s success on the international market, freeing staff to care for their patients, and allowing caregivers to control costs.

Yukihiko Kitano, Panasonic Engineer: “When I grow old and retire, I don’t want to be sitting in a hospital surrounded by robots. I want to grow old with people. And I want to be surrounded by people rather than robots.

But if some of my robots can assist my carers and friends with the hard and mundane work, that will be the ideal vision of the future for me.”

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1. Table tennis is just a kid’s game for the players. Yes or no?

2. Is the table tennis club membership representative of the wider society of Japan?

3. An aging society is unique to Japan. Is this true or false?

4. Is an aging society easy or difficult to deal with? Why are there many challenges with an aging society?

5. What are the challenges or problems to caregiving and nursing homes? What are some possible solutions?

6. The engineer wants to be looked after by robots when he becomes old. Is this correct or wrong?

7. What do the experts recommend is the solution?

A. What is the demographic structure of your country?

B. What happens to people when they retire?

C. What was it like in the past? What will be the situation in the future?

D. What is the solution? What should the government, retirees and society do?

E. Do you and your friends have plans for your old age?

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