Airbags provide silver lining for Japanese seniors

Thu Sep 25, 2008 8:48am EDT
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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Airbags, found mainly behind the wheel, are now cushioning Japan's growing elderly population from accidents off the road as well.

Designed by a Japanese company, the airbag for seniors is placed behind the head and hips, inflating in fractions of a second when a backwards fall is detected.

A video provided by the company showed the 1.1 kg (2.4 lb), gas-filled units rapidly inflating after a loud pop, cushioning the impact for a wearer who was going to hit the ground.

Priced at around 148,000 yen ($1,400), the airbags do not protect when falling forward, but Prop Co. President Mitsuya Uchida said on Thursday its may still reduce fractures caused by falls as well as help people afflicted with epileptic seizures.

"We have elderly and disabled customers in mind with the airbag, as well as epileptics," he said, noting the cost was less than an extended hospital stay.

The airbags, unveiled at an industry show, are the latest product in the world's No.2 economy aimed at a fast greying population where 40 percent will be aged 65 or older by mid-century.

Other senior-friendly goods include Fujitsu Ltd's "easy phone" with bigger buttons and clearer sound for the hard of hearing and Toto Ltd's "Toilet Lift," a motorized device between the seat and bowl helping those with wobbly legs.

(Reporting by Takanori Isshiki, writing by Daniel Sloan, editing by Miral Fahmy)

<p>Honda Motor shows the world's first airbag system to be mounted on a production model motorcycle at Honda headquarters in Tokyo, September 8, 2005. REUTERS/Toshiyuki Aizawa</p>