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Graphic Design Interdisciplinary Study of Aging in Japan

Drexel and Tawagawa

November 04, 2019

Shushi Yoshinaga, Associate Professor in the Graphic Design program, led a group of Drexel University and Tamagawa University students in a joint study, “Aging, Technology and Japanese Culture” to research the challenging issues of an aging society in Japan. Drexel students traveled to Tamagawa for a nine-day program through which the students visited healthcare facilities equipped with advanced technologies and robots to assist patients and caregivers, as well as androids in the Future Science Museum in Tokyo. Students also stayed overnight with Japanese families, and participated in the major 700-year old festival in Ishioka City in Ibaraki Prefecture. Students experienced field research interviewing locals, exchanged ideas on research with support from Tamagawa and Drexel professors, and shared group presentations with their results using visual aids and role-playing techniques.

Translated article from the University of Tamagawa

On 9/9, short-term foreign students arrived at Tamagawa from Drexel University located in the state of Pennsylvania of USA, and our joint study started. Drexel Univ founded in 1891 has a good reputation in STEM (science, technology, Engineering and Math) as well as in art studies similar to Tamagawa. The relationship started when our Tamagawa art major students participated in the Cherryblossom festival in US. Since then, we have been alternating each year either at Tamagawa or at Drexel for the joint classroom. This year, Drexel University came to Tamagawa. During the 9-day program, the students visited healthcare facilities and art museums in Tokyo and also stayed with host families in Ishioka City in Ibaraki Prefecture. The students also experienced field research. They also exchanged ideas on research with support from Tamagawa art professor and Drexel professors.

On the last day of 9/17, the students shared their research findings at the Academic Square Auditorium in University Education Building. Below we will give a brief summary on their group presentations.

Group 1 Accessibility of National Monuments Japan vs America:
We compared the accessibility of national parks and historical buildings between Japan and US. We visited Tsurugaoka-Hashimangu Shrine in Kamakura and Koutokuin Temple and looked at the presence of stairs and elevators. Through internet research, we also checked the accessibility at Lincoln Memorial Hall, Statue of Liberty and Philadelphia Independence Hall in US. We found that many Japanese buildings lack elevators and even slope entrances. Adding elevators in old buildings is thought to be difficult from engineering stand-point but also be negatively impacting appearance. But, we found some temples and shrines where elevators were installed without negatively impacting historical appearance. So, we believe that we can improve assessibility if we have a strong desire or need. In this presentation, we suggested our idea of utilizing VR technology by showing videos.

Group 2 Awareness/Education & Aging:
We discussed how we can increase our knowledge and awareness of aging society and elderly care. We found that Matsudo City in Chiba Prefecture has a certification program to train dementia care helpers. These helpers are named, “Orange Support Team Members.” They are trained to access needs for elders that they encounter and to provide necessary support. In this presentation, we did role-playing to highlight what activities younger people are doing to support elders and what supports would be available when we become elders.

Group 3 Robots and Japanese Healthcare:
We discussed how robots are helping healthcare management for elders. We know in the fast-aging country Japan, the 13% of elders have dementia and that in 2025, the ration will reach 20%. There is an increasing needs for elderly care robots. We found that there is a wide range of Robot types from pet-like robots to human-like robots. We believe that these robots can address the issue of lack of elderly care persons and also improve QOL. In this presentation, we used simulation to demonstrate how robots can be utilized for various situations that elders are facing.

Group 4 It is hard for elderly people to use public transportation:
Our group discussed the difficulties and issues experienced by elderly people while using public transportation. We find that elderly people face difficulties during their daily outing or long trips in public transportation. Japan sees a much higher rate of public transportation usage among elderly people than US. In this presentation, we played the elderly people’s role and demonstrated how elderly people use public transportation by using an elderly special pass. We find some shopping malls are tying wp with taxi companies to provide discounted taxi ride. We also find a great need for concerted efforts between home care-giving training schools and nursing schools.

Group 5 Life Prolonging Treatment:
We compared systems regarding life prolonging treatments between Japan and US in terms of social welfare systems, rehabilitation and will-making. We found similarity with dementia treatment between the two countries and also some differences with the length of rehabilitation (much longer for Japan) and with the importance placed on the will-making for life prolonging treatment (US places much more importance on these wills).

Overall Summary:
These study groups fully utilized role-playing techniques and visual aids for effective presentation. All presentations were conducted in English without any difficulties. For the presentations, many Drexel students wore simple kimonos after Tamagawa students happily helped dressing them. We saw good team-building after the nine-day activities. Next year, Tamagawa students are planning on visiting Drexel University. We hope this relationship further strengthens as we continue the exchange program.