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Postal workers to deliver senior services under Japan tie-up

Japan Post's post offices will be employed in providing monitoring services to the elderly.

TOKYO -- The Japan Post Holdings group is teaming up with several private-sector companies to provide lifestyle support services for the nation's growing ranks of seniors, dovetailing with the government's desire to promote aging in place.

Mail services unit Japan Post and Japan Post Insurance will hold a majority stake in a new joint venture. NTT Docomo, IBM Japan, Dai-ichi Life Holdings, advertising giant Dentsu, and security companies Secom and Sohgo Security Services will round out the list of shareholders. Japan Post will offer its national network extending into even sparsely populated areas, while the corporate partners will provide know-how.

The service launches in February. Postal workers will pay half-hour home visits once a month to chat with the elderly residents and note any changes in their health and living conditions. The information so gleaned can be shared with family members and health care professionals with permission.

IBM Japan is developing elder-friendly tablets so that the seniors can order items from local stores and supermarkets for delivery by the postal workers. Daily health and treatment records can also be entered. Japan Post Insurance and Dai-ichi Life will use the data to offer advice on healthy living.

The devices will also encourage interaction among the seniors, who will be able to easily prepare meeting and other materials. The tablets will also come installed with radio software, simple games and karaoke functionality.

Personnel from the security companies will be on alert around the clock to respond to sudden changes in the seniors' health. They will rush to the homes and call ambulances if needed. Relatives who do not live with the seniors will also be contacted.

Service fees are still being worked out but could run to a few thousand yen a month -- tens of dollars -- depending on usage.

A fast-growing market drove the eight companies to form this unique alliance. Japan had 16 million seniors aged 75 and older in 2015 -- a tally forecast to grow to 23 million in 2030.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare seeks to maximize the number of seniors receiving residential health and nursing care. Not only does the government aim to hold down social insurance costs, but facility-based care providers also would not be able to accommodate the extra applicants.

Lifestyle support services for the aged are not covered by government entitlements, but demand is expected to grow. The market is projected to reach 557.2 billion yen in 2021, up 30% from the 2016 estimate, according to Tokyo-based market research firm Fuji Keizai.

(Nikkei)

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