J-STORIES - Accidents can happen at any time, but in super-aging societies such as Japan the number of accidents involving elderly people is increasing. In fact, around 80 percent of emergency admissions in Japan follow falls, and over 50 percent of these accidents happen at home and require hospitalization due to bone fractures and other serious injuries.
In Japan alone, around one million elderly people fall and break bones each year, a number that has doubled since 2000.
Aside from the pain and trauma to the individual, such accidents also place a burden on society. In Japan, the total cost of nursing, long-term care, and social security for elderly people is estimated to be ¥2 trillion yen per year. In the United States, that figure rises to ¥7 trillion. Moreover, if an individual becomes bedridden due to a fall, their cognitive functioning may be affected, meaning the cost of care rises still further.
A Japanese start-up, however, has come up with a way to cushion both individuals and societies from the effects of such accidents. Magic Shields focuses not on preventing falls, but on preventing elderly people from hurting themselves when they fall. It does so with its Coroyawa flooring material that absorbs the impact of falls to prevent injury.
Speaking to J-STORIES, CEO Hiroshi Shimomura explained how he studied robotics at university before working as an engineer for a motorcycle manufacturer. But it was when he lost a close friend in a motorcycle racing accident that he decided to shift his R&D focus to protecting people from accidents and violence.
His “mechanical metamaterial” Coroyawa has been on sale since 2020 and uses automobile engineering technology to achieve variable rigidity with elasticity. This means it is both stable enough to walk on and capable of absorbing the shock of impacts such as falls, two properties that before now have been difficult to combine in the same material. In other words, the floor is firm to walk on and soft in the event of a fall. In fact, fall impact is reduced by about two thirds versus a conventional floor.
Coroyawa is already in use at over 560 medical and welfare facilities in Japan, as well as at some childcare and sports facilities. Medical institutions using the material have commented that it helps patients leave their beds more often and increases the range of their daily life activities.
This August, the material will also be introduced at a university hospital in the United States. A new, thinner version of the flooring material measuring 1.2 cm in thickness went on sale in August and is already being used in newly built homes and home renovation projects.
“Through quickly making Coroyawa popular, we hope to not only reduce the number of people around the world who become bedridden or develop dementia, but also lessen the care burden on families and help deal with the shortage of people working in nursing and medical care,” said Shimomura.
Translation by Tony McNicol
Top page photo by Magic Shields
For inquiries about this article, please contact email@example.com
Click here for the Japanese version of the article.