Nothing compares to the warm hug of a real person, but when there’s no one else around, this nifty little Japanese invention can do the job quite well. It’s called the ‘tranquility chair’ – its back is shaped like a giant human doll with a friendly face and long arms that can wrap around you in an affectionate embrace.
The chair is the brainchild of Japanese company UniCare – they’re selling the product for 46,000 yen ($ 419) at the International Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition in Tokyo. “It makes you feel safe,” said a UniCare spokesperson. “Anyone can use it, but it is designed for older people.”
Given that a quarter of Japan’s population is currently over the age of 65, and the number is expected to rise to 40 percent in coming decades, the tranquility chair is really quite apt for the Japanese market. The company has come up with a host of similar products, like ‘Life Rhythm Dolls’ that are programmed to remind owners to take their medicine or go to the toilet.
“They are comforting for people who live alone – they can talk to them and hug them,” the spokesperson explained. “They also play old Japanese music, which is nostalgic for older people.”
Inspired by the studies of Professor Hidetata Sasaki, the hugging chair is designed to also help dementia patients or people suffering from anxiety, fear or uncontrollable anger by helping them relax.
The three-day exhibition also included a variety of other unusual products that are designed to lift the spirits of older people who live on their own, such as baby seal robots that double as pets and don’t need to be taken care of.