Renowned companies Apple and IBM are teaming up to bring Japan’s elderly population free iPads, loaded with health apps that remind them when to take their medicine, advise them where to find support services, make it easier to stay in touch with family and friends, access home handyman services and even inform them of community events.
Starting this October, the two tech giants will start giving away iPads to 1,000 seniors through a partnership with Japan Post Group, the country’s largest health and life insurance company.
The social initiative will begin with a 6 month trial period and teach seniors how to use IBM-developed health and social apps that help improve their lives, and Apple proudly calls it “a first-of-its kind initiative aimed at improving the quality of life for millions of Japanese senior citizens”.
IBM researchers also worked on developing Japanese natural language analysis “to guide seniors and make the experience more natural”, as the older generations are not as familiar with the English language and with global tendencies as the younger generations.
Taizo Nishimuro, CEO of Japan Post Group stressed the importance if the social responsibly program saying: “We are joining with two of the world’s most respected leaders in technology to bring our elderly generation into the connected world, expand our businesses by deepening relationships, and discover new ways to strengthen the fabric of our society and economy”.
Moreover, a Japan Post spokesman told AFP last week: “We will start a trial service with some 1,000 iPads custom-made for the elderly, using our existing Watch Over service”. The “Watch Over” service is a program that includes postal workers checking in on their elderly customers monthly and reporting their well-being back to relatives.
If successful, the project will aim to give iPads to 4 to 5 million Japanese seniors by 2020.
About a quarter (25%) of Japan’s population is age 65 or older and the number is expected to grow 40% in the next few centuries, making it the ideal landscape to test the initiative, both from a social and a commercial perspective as the elderly will soon occupy a significant portion of the market.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO, released a statement confirming that the two tech companies have every intention of expanding to other countries: “This initiative has potential for global impact, as many countries face the challenge of supporting an aging population, and we are honored to be involved in supporting Japan’s senior citizens and helping enrich their lives”.
Cook did however note that they would have to forge partnerships with multiple health care companies if they were to eventually implement the program in the US (or any other country), as no single company in the US has the reach of the Japan Post Group (the company has 24,000 post offices spread throughout Japan and enjoys existing financial ties to almost every Japanese citizen).
Besides the apps specifically developed for the elderly, the free iPads will also include typical apps commonly found on all Apple tablets and smartphones, such as FaceTime, Messages, Mail, Photos and iCloud Photo Sharing, iTunes Store and iBooks Store, and many others.
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