Barcodes for Dementia Patients and 4 Other Weird Things Japan Does for the Elderly

Barcodes for Dementia Patients and 4 Other Weird Things Japan Does for the Elderly

Japan’s way of life is a mystery. From soy-sauce flavored Kit Kat bars, to chocolate covered French fries and black burgers – and that’s the just food – the desires can be a bit mind-bending.

But what about dealing with life changes? Things like growing older? Every culture is different, and there are pros and cons to becoming a senior citizen in any place around the world. But you might want to look at Japan’s a little closer before packing your bags.

Here are 5 strange things you might encounter, as you enter your later years in the land of the rising sun:

1) Barcodes on Your Finger Nails


If you have dementia and live in Japan, it’s likely that your family will tag your clothes with personal info.

This way if you wander off, those who find you can get you home.

But what if you’re not wearing the right sweater when you cross the road and don’t come back?

Someone thought of this.

Dementia patients in Japan can now be tagged with scan-able bar codes, placed on their finger nails.

The stickers have a unique identity number that can help match those who are lost with their family. The chips are said to remain active for up to two weeks, and it’s all free.

2) Hot Noodles for Handing in Your License


Hungry? Why not trade in your driver’s license for a bowl of steaming, hot noodles? In an effort to get senior citizens who perhaps shouldn’t be driving, off the road, police in some areas are promising a discount on a bowl of Ramen, if they turn in their driver’s license.

Yumm. The deal applies to those 75 years of age and older and comes on the heals of many deadly car accidents caused by elderly drivers in the country.

Japan still does not require those over 75 to pass a cognitive test when they renew their license. Thankfully, all that will change this coming March.

3) Looking Forward to Going to Prison


Quite tragically, the cost of living in Japan is so high that some seniors are hoping to land themselves in prison.

According to a report on, if you are retired in Japan with minimal savings, your cost of living is more than 25% higher than the state pension.

In light of this, many elderly people are turning to shoplifting and other forms of light crime in order to end up behind bars, where healthcare, food, and lodging is free.

4) Being Cared for By Robots


Japan has a rapidly ageing population. One quarter of the country is currently over the age of 65, and someday soon, analysts predict this could reach 40%.

So, what’s the government doing to prepare? What anyone would: developing robots.

According to, a whopping one-third of the Japanese government’s budget is currently being dedicated to building “carebots”.

The devices fall under three categories: physical assistant robots, mobile servant robots, and person carrier robots and will hopefully help the economy keep on turning once almost half the country grows old.

Think of the Jetson’s and Star Wars crossed with your local nursing home.

“Tea, anyone?” Sure thing, C-3PO.

5) A Serious Holiday Devoted to YOU


It’s nice to know that along with these rather marginalizing phenomenon listed here, Japan compensates in warmth with a day dedicated purely to seniors.

No, it’s nothing like Grandparents Day in North America. (Never heard of it? Me neither- there you go.)

It’s called Respect for the Aged Day and it’s a national holiday that falls on the third Monday of every September, and it’s the real deal. It’s a paid holiday and most people participate.

Free boxed lunches are provided to the elderly in neighborhoods by volunteers, gifts are given, a festive meal is shared and children provide entertainment.

So, you get two Christmases, as a Japanese retiree. Nice!

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