- Our basic approach and strategy
- Our activities
- Contributing to lengthening healthy life expectancy with Lifree “Social Walking®”
- Improving Lifree Pants to make them “easier to take off”
- Working towards the building of a cohesive society in which people and pets can live harmoniously
Our basic approach and strategy
The aging of the population has proceeded more rapidly in Japan than in any other country in the world. In 2007, Japan became a “super-aging society” with over 21% of the population aged 65 or older. Improvements in medicine have led to an increased average life expectancy and a growing focus on “healthy-life expectancy” - the length of time for which people stay physically and mentally healthy and are able to live independently. Everyone wants to be able to maintain their own preferred lifestyle and a high level of well-being as they get older. Unicharm's mission is to contribute to the extension of healthy-life expectancy by offering support for the maintenance of active lifestyles through the provision of continence care products, including lightweight continence pad, rehabilitation pants, etc.
Contributing to the realization of the SDGs
Unicharm's activities are in conformity with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) objectives shown below. In the future, we will continue to leverage our company's unique strengths to make an even greater contribution towards the solving of the world's shared problems.
No. of people participating in “Social Walking®”
“Healthy-life expectancy” is the period of time over which people are able to maintain their physical and mental health and independence without needing care as they get older. While the aging of the population has been accelerating, the number of people aged 65 or over who are still working has also been rising and there is growing awareness of the importance of taking steps to maintain one's health - for example by exercising, etc. - so that people can avoid the need for care as they age and can continue to enjoy an active lifestyle that suits them.
Of the various effects of aging (what are sometimes referred to as “geriatric syndrome”), continence problems - including urinary incontinence, etc. - can have a particularly big impact on mental health. People who are worried about urinary incontinence tend to stop going out, may not get enough exercise and may find themselves gradually becoming isolated from society, among other negative effects.
At Unicharm, we are continuing to take measures aimed at making more people aware of how appropriate care can enable them to continue to enjoy an active lifestyle and we are striving to provide even better products, as one of the keys to realizing an extension of healthy-life expectancy.
Contributing to lengthening healthy life expectancy with Lifree “Social Walking®”
By the year 2025, the members of the “Baby Boom” generation will be older senior citizens aged 75 or over and one out of every three people in Japan will be aged 65 or over. Medical and care professionals are so worried about this prospect that they refer to the “2025 Crisis.” As Japan becomes a “super-aging society” of a kind that has never been seen in the world before, it is anticipated that dementia will be the single biggest factor necessitating care provision.
For dementia prevention, there is widespread agreement that a good approach is to combine the “physiological approach” - which emphasizes regular exercise and a balanced diet - with the “cognitive approach,” which emphasizes maintaining human contact through hobbies, volunteering and involvement in neighborhood activities.
Unicharm contributes to the extension of healthy life expectancy through our continence care products so that senior citizens can still keep going out as much as they want, even if they have continence issues. We have launched the Lifree “Social Walking” initiative, through which participants who are using Unicharm's continence care products have the opportunity to walk while enjoying social interaction in a purposeful way, thereby fostering exercise and social participation and helping to prevent dementia.
“Social Walking” is a neologism that combines the words “social participation” and “walking” and is a walking program aimed at providing a way of preventing dementia that is easy for anyone to participate in by getting people walking in an enjoyable way. “Social Walking” is a program that seeks to foster social participation through walking, by bringing people into contact with other people and promoting involvement in volunteering activities and local community activities.
In FY2018, working in collaboration with the Japan Nordic Walk League, we held a total of 17 Nordic Walking experience activities, with over 700 people participating. We will continue to implement these activities in FY2019. In addition, in order to promote more widespread adoption of Nordic Walking, we are planning to work with local government authorities throughout Japan on the implementation of a “Social Walking Lecture Program.”
The 7th Lifree “Social Walking®” activity was held on Sunday November 4th, 2018 at Kasai Rinkai Park and Kasai Ocean Park in Tokyo, with nearly 60 people participating. On the day, Mr. Yoshinori Fujiwara of the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology gave a lecture on the biological mechanisms by which dementia operates and volunteers from NPO Reprints Network - which is mainly engaged in arranging for senior citizens to read picture books aloud to children - got the participants involved in reading aloud. Staff from Unicharm's Continence Support Research Institute gave a talk about the biological mechanisms behind continence problems and how to prevent and deal with continence problems; they also led the participants in doing some easy pelvic floor muscle (Kegel) exercises. Moving on to the practical part of the activity, instructors from the Japan Nordic Walk League gave the participants guidance on how to walk using walking poles. This full program made “Social Walking®” enjoyable for everyone taking part in the activity.
In their responses to the questionnaire survey that was administered after the activity, 93% of participants stated that they were now aware of the need to get out more and walk more in order to help prevent dementia.
Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology
Contributing to society by volunteering and receiving appreciation for this can also be an effective way of preventing dementia. By expanding the scope of one's links with society, it is possible to achieve happiness both for oneself and for society. I sincerely hope that people will take advantage of this opportunity to start Social Walking.
Instructor, Japan Nordic Walk League
Nordic Walking, which uses poles, is an ideal way of transforming ordinary walking into more effective aerobic exercise. This type of walking expends 1.2 to 1.3 times as much energy as conventional walking. There are branches of the Japan Nordic Walk League all over Japan; anyone interested in trying Nordic Walking should feel free to contact their local branch.
・ “I was a little worried about what I could do to increase my social interaction, but now I am going to explore ways that I can be of use to other people.” (A lady in her 70s)
・ “I live nearby, but it was interesting to learn about how to walk better and about the various things to see within the Park.” (A man in his 60s)
・“I am worried about dementia, so I am going to make an effort to go out more with friends to try to slow down the development of dementia symptoms.” (A lady in her 60s)
In November 2018 in Kakegawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture, the first “Social Walking®” experience activity organized by a retail enterprise was held, by Kyorindo (“Super Drug Store”).
A group of 51 Kakegawa residents participated in this “Social Walking®” experience activity, in which they listened to a lecture about dementia prevention, did warm-up exercises that incorporated effective training for easing incontinence symptoms, and then walked in the crisp autumn air using poles and correct walking posture to transform ordinary walking into an effective form of aerobic exercise. After the participants and their family members had enjoyed this activity, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire form; all of the participants reported being very satisfied with the activity.
・ “I think it would be marvelous if they could hold this type of event on a regular basis, several times a year.” (A 72-year-old man)
・ “I feel that it would be great fun to organize this type of activity together with friends.” (A 68-year-old lady)
I am very happy that so many Kakegawa residents - and Kyorindo customers - took part in this “Social Walking®” experience activity organized by Kyorindo, which was the first activity of its kind. Today, many people lack an incentive to exercise and, as a result, hardly take a step outside the house; it would be wonderful if participating in, and enjoying, this activity was the key to getting some of these people to start exercising regularly. In the future, I hope that we will be able to continue our involvement with this kind of healthy exercise event, so that we can contribute towards maintaining and enhancing the health of people in our local community.
(Risa Aiba, Sports Program, Health and Medical Care Network Promotion Office, Kyorindo)
Improving Lifree Pants to make them “easier to take off”
The basic concept of care provision has been changing, away from the type of care where care recipients have to rely fully on others to do everything for them, towards a new style of care where people do as much as possible for themselves, so that they are able to live a more independent lifestyle that suits their needs.
In the past, we have made several improvements to our Lifree Pants focused on the process of putting the pants on, with pant designs that are easy for people to put on without needing assistance, and which make sure that the pants fit snugly without gaps. However, consumer observation and research has shown us that people often need help with taking the pants off.
Taking the pants off can be quite stressful, because senior citizens may have difficulty bending over to remove the pants, they may be worried about falling over as they lean forward and it can be difficult to avoid getting dirty, among other issues.
By using special patented stitching technology on both sides of the pants, we have been able to make sure that they stretch enough to be easy to put on and stay firm while they are being worn, but can be torn off using only half as much effort as was needed with conventional products.
“Tearing the sides” to remove the diaper is normal for baby diapers, but the current situation is that awareness of the practicality of this method for adult diapers is low and only a relatively small percentage of adult diaper products have adopted this type of design. There were various reasons for this situation; it was felt that it would be difficult for the wearer to take the pants off in this way, that it would be faster to have the carer change the pants and that the wearer might not have the necessary strength. This is why Unicharm's new Lifree Pants state on the packaging that “Can be easily taken off by the wearer.” The TV commercial for the new pants also emphasize that they are easy to put on and easy to take off. The aim is to foster widespread dissemination of a new approach that encourages people to regain more autonomy in relation to their continence issues.
Being able to handle one's own continence care autonomously without needing to rely on other people has a direct impact on helping people to maintain their self-respect and dignity. The fact that wearers of these new pants can do everything themselves, from putting the pants on to taking them off, helps them to retain their independence and to maintain their own preferred lifestyle as long as possible. In doing so, it contributes to the extension of healthy life expectancy.
Deputy Brand Manager
Global Healthcare Division
Before being assigned to Unicharm's healthcare division, I was working in the baby-care division. With baby-care, the process of development from birth to three years old tends to be more or less the same for most infants, but with healthcare, in the case of senior citizens, there is a high degree of variation in the care process in terms of age, body size and shape, the age at which people start to experience continence issues, etc. This makes things more difficult, but I also feel it very challenging. Even when someone has continence problems, if they can be provided with appropriate care, then they will have a more positive attitude towards going out and they will be able to continue living more or less the same life that they did before the continence issues started. If adult diapers can be designed so that the wearer can change them by herself or himself without needing assistance from a carer, then this will help the wearer to maintain his or her autonomy. In the future, I hope to be able to help develop the kind of products that I would want to use myself; I feel that in doing this, I would also be making a positive contribution to society. Being involved with healthcare is very enjoyable!
Working towards the building of a cohesive society in which people and pets can live harmoniously
Unicharm has been working to enhance the quality of life of senior citizens so that they can continue to live an active lifestyle that suits their needs. At the same time, we have also been striving to improve the living environment for pets, through the development and sale of pet products such as pet foods and pet care products, etc. One of our desires is to help to make it possible for people and pets to live together happily.
For many people, having contact with animals can put a smile on their face and help to relieve stress. Not only that, when senior citizens who are receiving care have contact with animals, it can possibly strengthen their autonomy and improve their quality of life. When opportunities for interaction with animals are provided in care facilities for senior citizens, encouraging the residents to interact with animals has been shown to reduce the percentage of residents who are reluctant to get out of bed in the morning and increase the percentage of residents who feel able to chat happily with others. At the same time, interacting with humans seems to have a positive impact on animals as well. With the aim of helping to build a cohesive society in which people and pets can live in harmony with one another, we are taking steps to demonstrate clearly the positive impact that people and animals can have on each other.
Striving to pursue “comfort” of both people and animals through animal-assisted therapy under the Companion Animal Partnership Program (CAPP)
Animal-assisted therapy is a treatment method that helps restore people to health through the psychological benefits - including a reduction in stress and a greater sense of security - that derive from having interaction with animals. Working in collaboration with the Japan Animal Hospital Association - which visits senior citizen care facilities, hospitals, schools etc. to provide animal-assisted therapy under its Companion Animal Partnership Program (CAPP) - Unicharm has begun using scientific analysis to verify the effectiveness of interaction between humans and animals in terms of enhancing feelings of “comfort.”
In 2018, Unicharm personnel accompanied JAHA staff on visits to Special Nursing Homes to provide animal-assisted therapy. The participating senior citizens agreed to collaborate on our research. Saliva samples were taken, before and after the therapy, to test for hormone secretion and a heart rate sensor was used to evaluate autonomic nerve function. In addition, during the therapy, video cameras were used to record the number of times that participants smiled and evaluate their expressions.
The results obtained confirmed that interacting with animals was accompanied by an increase in happiness hormones, changes in the heart rate that indicated relaxation and an increase in the frequency with which participants smiled. We were thus able to obtain scientific evidence demonstrating that interacting with therapy dogs can enable people to feel happiness and joy.
We also measured the changes in hormone secretion and in heart rate in the therapy dogs. The results showed a clear increase in the secretion of happiness hormones in many of the therapy dogs. It was clear that it is not just people that benefit from interaction between humans and animals; interacting with humans improved the mood of the therapy dogs and enabled them to feel happiness too.
In November 2018, we conducted additional research in which we measured the changes in hormone secretion and heart rate of dog owners and their dogs when engaged in walking the dog. The results demonstrated that there was an increase in the secretion of hormones denoting happiness for many of the participating people and their dogs after walking together for a distance of around 2km.
Responding to the increase in the number of older pets requiring care (resulting from the increase in average pet lifespan due to improvements in pet-food and in medical treatment for pets), Unicharm develops and markets a range of pet care products including pet care mats, pet toilet-care sheets with enhanced breathability, sanitary products for pets, etc.
We will continue to develop and verify new products in the future, in line with our goal of building a cohesive society in which people and pets can live harmoniously.
CSV Promotion Group, CSR Division
Previously, I was involved in undertaking research on senior citizen continence issues at Unicharm's Continence Support Research Institute. I began research in my current field inspired by the idea that, as a company which has a pet care business, it is important for Unicharm to focus not just on the wellbeing of senior citizens but also of their pets.
As the aging of the population becomes more pronounced, there is a widespread trend for people whose children have grown up and left home to keep pets and as a result there are increasingly close links between senior citizens and companion animals. One of Unicharm's goals is to work towards the building of a society in which people and pets can live harmoniously and my own objective is to identify and verify the value that living together provides for people and animals and to disseminate awareness of this value within society.
We are living in an era in which both people and pets are living to advanced ages. As a company engaged in providing products for both senior citizens and pets, we aim not only to contribute to society through our products but also to enhance the quality of life of people and pets. We will continue working to make it possible for people and pets to live longer together with happy feeling.
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