"I never thought the loss of physical health, could make someone feel this downhearted..."
While I was a student studying Health Sciences in medical school, I provided lifestyle guidance to about 400 elderly people.As someone on the healthcare frontlines, the key challenge I recognized is that the loss of physical health has a direct negative impact on mental health. Often the ailing women I worked with apologized for being such a burden every time they needed care. Many of the men I counseled had become increasingly withdrawn. I met a lot of seniors like this, and smiles were hard to find.
The KajiTrainer Team concept for eliminating the loneliness caused by lost their health
A 72-year-old patient called Masayo (not her real name) who I met while visiting an elder day care facility in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, told me, "I can't do housework anymore. I'm just a burden to my family. It's disgraceful and frustrating." This feeling is not limited to Masayo. Many people lose their confidence for living when they can no longer perform their usual roles.
You may have heard about something called locomotive syndrome (LS). First described by the Japanese Orthopaedic Association in 2007, it refers to a condition in which daily activities are reduced due to the impairment of locomotive body parts such as bones, joints, and muscles.
According to a Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) survey*1, LS is the primary reason that about 25% of seniors need support and care. I too, witnessed many cases of lost physical health due to LS.
Therefore, in order to maintain physical health, it is necessary to prevent LS. According to a survey by the Japan Foundation for Aging and Health*2, it is important to adopt the habit of exercising early in life, in order to prevent LS. A focus on various factors such as diet, sleep, and exercise, is vital for healthy aging, and exercise in particularly important.
Nonetheless, according to a MHLW survey*3, 70% of seniors are careful about what they eat, while 55% focus on adequate sleep, and only 48% try to get enough exercise. Exercise seems to be the point of least concern among the three.
Furthermore, based on our own team survey, we discovered that 78.3% of seniors were unable to exercise anymore and were suffering as a result. After interviewing 175 men and women age 60 and older, we found that they didn't exercise because they couldn't do so with changing their usual routine. So, how do you exercise without changing your usual routine?
That was when our team began to focus on household chores, which not only contain elements of exercise, but are also part of daily routines for many seniors, as a way to promote physical health.
Aiming to create a new vision for housework!
At the Game Changer Catapult business contest Demo Day
As part of daily activities, housework is a convenient way to get a lot of exercise. Therefore, we came up with the concept of Housework Trainer, to help people use this activity as a health promotion tool. Housework Trainer is a service that provides individualized training routines involving housework. Each individual's routine is updated regularly using a cloud-based service, according to their fitness progress.
The routines are medically supervised, for added peace of mind. By bringing the business concept of Housework Trainer to the world, we want to help seniors live long healthy lives. Also, we want to change the idea of housekeeping from something that you have to do, into something that is good for your health. Accordingly, in addition to Panasonic's traditional goal of helping to reduce the burden of housework through appliances, we would like to help people enjoy more rewarding lifestyles by also expertly obtaining physical benefits from housework.
Housekeeping as seen by the Housework Trainer Team and "Housework for Slimming!" Author Mami Seita
In order to create a new vision for domestic chores, we are working with people both within Panasonic, and outside partners. First, we contacted Mami Seita, who has promoted housework as a way for women to stay in shape, in her book "Yaseru Sōji! (Housework for Slimming!)."
Here is a recap of a discussion between Ms. Seita and the Housework Trainer Team on how to advance the Housework Trainer business concept.
Talking with Ms. Seita
Kaji: Let me ask you straight out, what is the trick for turning housework into exercise?
Seita: All you have to do is change your approach slightly. Basically, you need to focus on 1) correct posture, 2) breathing, and 3) the use of both arms.
Matsuo: It's important to keep those three points in mind, isn't it?
Seita: Because human beings tend to make their movements as easy as possible, the way people usually do housework is not beneficial exercise. There are some basic techniques for dynamic cleaning, and if you incorporate them, you can clean more efficiently and improve your health too.
Kaji: I know you also give talks to seniors. Are there any concrete benefits from your methods for that age group in particular?
Seita: The elderly often suffer from things like stiff shoulders, back pain, coldness, knee pain, and fatigue. These are usually caused by a lack of training for the trunk and their aching muscles. Dynamic cleaning techniques are effective for all these issues because they lead to muscle strengthening in the entire body, and better blood flow.
Matsuo: Please give us your candid feedback concerning our Housework Trainer project, in which you have participated from the planning stage.
Seita: I like your idea of a belt that can tell people when their posture is good while doing housework. It will make them feel confident that they are doing the exercises properly. Also, since folks rarely get positive feedback for doing housework, it's fantastic that the device can offer praise and encouragement.
Matsuo: We would like to propose a new way to do housework where results are visible, immediate, and connected.
Kaji: Our desire is for everyone to lead long and energetic lives. We look forward to your continued support going forward.
Reasons for Taking on the Housework Trainer Challenge and the Strengths of Our Team
Left to right: Project Leader Kaji, Matsuo, Ikushima, and Saito
Most members of this entrepreneurial team are recent university grads who have been with the company for two years. Given our relatively short time with the company, we are seeking to create a new type of service from the customer's perspective, without being bound by conventional Panasonic thinking.
Moreover, two team members have Health Science degrees from medical schools, an unusual background for Panasonic employees. With the advantage of this academic expertise, we intend to create value by dynamically combining medical knowledge and home appliance technology, in order to fully develop this business proposal. We believe that the diversity of our team, with members from product development, product planning and marketing, has enabled us to advance the Housework Trainer concept.
*2 Reference: Japan Foundation for Aging and Health "What is Locomotive Syndrome?"
*3 Reference: Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare "2014 Survey on Health Awareness"
Mami Seita (URL http://bisouji.com/)
As the representative director of the Japan Home Organizing Association, Seita is active as a consultant on the use of housework as a way to stay in shape, and has written "Ichi-nichi Go-fun de Ie-jū Doko Demo Daietto: Yaseru sōji! (Housework for Slimming! The Daily Five-Minute Workout You Can Do Anywhere in Your Home)" (Kanki Publishing)
Tomomi Yamamoto (URL http://www.blanche2009.com)