Year

2002

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Faculty of Arts

Abstract

Demographic changes after the Second World War have resulted in the Japanese people having the world's highest life expectancy. This, coupled with the declining birth rate, has caused a rapid growth in the proportion of aged people in the population and a declining proportion of the population in the workforce to support the non-working population. At the same time, post-War changes in social conditioning and family structures are diminishing the availability and reliability of family members to act as caregivers to the aged. Historical evidence suggests that the Japanese people, and in particular the government, are open to finding technological solutions to address their social and economic problems. One method of dealing with the scarce resources for aged care in Japan is to develop and utilise technology that assists the elderly to maintain as much independence for as long as possible and to assist care-givers by easing their workload. This thesis examines three technology options that can be used to help aged care in Japan today. Option One uses only standard technology from other countries; Option Two calls for investment primarily in high-level technology development, exemplified by robotics technology; Option Three concentrates on developing and using smaller-scale technology such as barrier-free technology for aged care. Details of the development of robotics and barrier-free technologies and the assumptions underlying their development for aged care are examined. The thesis discusses ways in which these options affect various stakeholders—the government, researchers, professional care-givers, family care-givers and recipients of the care. This framework for assessing technology for aged care—spelling out options, unearthing assumptions underlying the options and surveying effects—is a useful and convenient tool for policy makers and other interested parties.

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