Steady-State Economy

March 17, 2014


Elderly Simulation Program is Helping Japan Become an Elderly-Friendly Society

Keywords: Aging Society Diversity NGO / Citizen 

Urashima Taro instructor 
Copyright Wonderful Aging Club All Rights Reserved.

The Wonderful Aging Club, a Japanese association working to build a rich and lively aged society in Japan, provides a hands-on elderly simulation program called "Urashima Taro," developed jointly with Tokyo Gas Co. and others entities. People can experience some of the physical disabilities and psychological changes experienced by the elderly (aged around 75 to 80) by wearing simulation devices, such as earplugs and special glasses.

The program was developed in 1993 based on studies in the U.S. and elsewhere but with special consideration paid to Japanese people's unique body shape and lifestyles in Japanese culture. A kit for the program includes earplugs that simulate senior hearing loss, special glasses that simulate cataracts and tunnel vision, arm and leg supporters, and weights that simulate muscle weakness. The kit aims to enable people of different ages to have a first-hand experience of the physical and psychological changes associated with aging, so they can use the experience for developing elderly-friendly services and products and building an elderly-friendly environment and society.

Urashima Taro, the program's name, comes from an old Japanese tale. In the tale, a fisherman named Urashima Taro rescues a turtle and is rewarded for this with a visit to a castle under the sea. He stays there for a few days and, on his return to his village, receives a mysterious box called "tamatebako." When he returns home and opens the box, he suddenly turns into an old man. In this regard, the name Urashima Taro succinctly captures the essence of what the program does: enables people to transform themselves into an elderly person immediately after opening the kit bag and putting the devices on.