By Lorraine Hart of Ideal Consulting Services
Houston Remodeler Dan Bawden, Pres & CEO of Legal Eagle Contractors just returned from a construction-based speaking tour in Japan. The tour took place between October 5th to October 12th, 2019.
A nationally recognized expert-in-aging place design, Bawden was invited to Japan by the U.S. Department of Commerce to do a three-city tour as the Keynote Speaker. He traveled to Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka Japan by bullet train to address residential construction trade organizations in those cities.
Attendees included home-builders, architects, designers and materials suppliers, including lumberyard dealers. In each city, members of the local U.S. Consulate also attended. Mr. Bawden spoke to the groups through Japanese translators, who also assisted with the questions posed by Japanese attendees at the conclusion of the Keynote presentations.
Dan Bawden’s keynote presentations were about aging-in-place home modifications for the exploding senior population in Japan. “Japan has 100,000 people reaching the age of 100 years every month!” says Bawden after researching the demographic trends in Japan. “Their senior segment growth far exceeds that of the U.S. There are three reasons for this: People live far longer because of their low-fat diet, the availability of good quality health care, and a strong sense of community and family,” says Bawden.
Another reason their senior population comprises such a high percentage is ever-decreasing birth-rates. “The result is a serious shortage of people in the workplace vs then number of retirees, putting a strain on the pension system”, says Bawden. “Steady decreases in senior pensions limits family’s ability to do much-needed home modifications, such as ramps to get into the home, and basic remodeling for safer bathrooms”. “Assisted living places are far and few between in Japan. This means adding features that make homes safer and allow for independent living at home is more critical than ever in Japan, but this type of remodeling is a new concept there”, according to Bawden. “They were amazed to see photos of specific aging in place ideas being put into American homes.”
Remodeling homes to accommodate seniors as they age even for accessibility is largely unheard of in Japan. The attendees viewed photos in Mr. Bawden’s presentation showing a number of attractive products, such as designer grab rails and project ideas for aging-in-place, such as converting tubs to walk-in step-free showers.
“Most Japanese homes have very small bathrooms” says Bawden. “There is usually a small rinse-off shower and very deep bathtubs to contend with. The deep tubs are a source of difficulty, causing falls for older family members trying to climb in and out of them onto wet floors”.
Attendees had never seen most of the design ideas presented. “They were standing up and taking photos of the slides with their cellphones” noted Bawden. “That is always an indicator of high interest level in the subject”, he said.