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Danish Elderly Care Inspire Japans Social-Innovation

02.11.2018  02:53


Japan’s Elderly Health Seminar, MHLW, November 1st Tokyo, Japan

Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland co-hosted a Japan-Nordic Elderly Care Seminar organised with Director-General, Health and Welfare Bureau for the Elderly, Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). To Japan, the Nordic countries function as model societies for elderly care, and with a long Nordic tradition of supportive environments designed to meet citizen needs, Japan seek Nordic inspiration to quality and health care reforms leading to health and social welfare innovation. For the Nordic countries, Japan’s innovative approaches to social and assistive technologies play an integral part of citizen centric elderly care. The seminar shared the good cases with field trips and concrete initiatives on testing and implementing new technologies. The highlights included the role of technologies addressing care staff labour shortage and how technology can support the elderly citizens to stay safe and fit for longer at their homes, while securing lives that are more dignified, encouraging higher social participation leading to increased quality of life.

Promoting a Safe and Dignified Life

Japan leads the world as a ‘super-aging’ society, experiencing various social challenges before many other industrialized nations. However, the concept of well-aging has not translated into systematic nationwide reforms of health and social organisation for senior citizens, giving amble room for cooperation on social welfare policy development and service implementation.

Sharing positive practices, the Royal Danish Embassy presented the Danish senior citizen and elderly care approach, leading for a dignified life and quality of living. Focus was on measures taken to include technology in delivering more and better citizen-centred care, leveraging technology to complement ‘warm hands’ in providing care. Secondly, provide examples on the design-experiences of the age-friendly society, allowing the elderly to continue being a ‘societal resource’, and not a passive resource intensive ‘burden’; and thirdly, how to address isolation and loneliness among senior citizens through social technologies and ‘life affirming’ communities.

Not Without my Neighbours…and Technology

Denmark has gained comprehensive experience since the first attempts of elderly care in 1900, converting an old monastery to an elderly care home. Independence-oriented housing for seniors is guided around communities, extending the role and concept of the social and physical community on well-aging.

Denmark is a frontrunner in telehealth and welfare technology adoption, increasingly incentivised by authorities and implemented by health and elderly care organisations. Through hands-on experience from national, regional and local day-to-day operations, Denmark’s health and social organisation makes the nation an able test-environment for social welfare technologies.

 “Instead of sending the patient to the system, we deploy the system to the patient, benefitting everyone involved.”

Ellen Trane-Nørby, Minister for Health

Citizen-centricity - The Social and Economic Case

The Danish experience suggests that ‘provider-citizen’ interaction to assist elderly citizens in mastering their own life, aiming for a daily life of greater enthusiasm, empowerment and independence, delivers better social and economic outcomes. For example, seniors value a successful and dignified aging as maintaining control over their own lives, staying independent and not feeling burdensome to their children.

This has inspired citizen-centric design of senior care around a person’s resources and abilities, instead of looking at the person’s limitations, delivering the social-economic value case. For example, Danish experiences suggests this approach supports more satisfied citizens, who are clearly physically stronger and independent in their own lives, and express pride and improved quality of life by regaining and maintaining their daily functions. Secondly, more satisfied employees in the senior care services, who express significantly greater job satisfaction, and thirdly, overall better economic results thorough savings on local health provider budgets.

Evolution in Senior Care – What Could Be Next?

Technology, social design and communities of peers provides social welfare and sustainability. Below examples of future senior care is organised around ‘life long living’, allowing for shared resources, safety and security, and perhaps most importantly, accessible social contact, which leads to better physical, mental, and emotional health.

Technology: At Lindehaven Care Centre, there is a stimuli room using different colours and shades of lighting to regulate the body's natural circadian rhythm by mimicking daylight and night hours.

  • If a dementia patient is restless at night, staff will take the resident to a room filled with dim orange light to bring down agitation or stress levels and help sleep. If the resident is feeling sluggish during the day, white or bright lights help to stimulate brain and energy.

Social Design: A new nursing home that cares for the elderly who are frail, and is housed in the same complex where independent seniors and students live.

  • When completed in 2024, the Solund nursing home will have 360 care homes for weaker seniors, 150 apartments for younger adults and 20 units for the elderly who do not need any help.

Personal Preferences: Copenhagen is looking at how the city can create common spaces for senior people who share certain interests, wishes and values.

  • The city has established six nursing homes with different "profiles" or focuses - music, gourmet food, sports, and animals and nature.
  • There is a "rainbow" nursing home for gay residents and another for ethnic minorities.

Danish Elderly Care Inspire Japans Social Innovation, Japan Elderly Health Seminar, November 1st MHLW, Tokyo, Japan
Mr. Joakim Steen Barron-Mikkelsen, Economic Diplomacy in Health, Royal Danish Embassy, Tokyo, Japan