Need a hug? Japan unveils 'anti-loneliness' chair

Need a hug? Japan unveils 'anti-loneliness' chair
If you're lonely or a bit depressed, you could probably use a hug – but not necessarily from a human. A special chair which can deliver a comforting embrace on demand has been revealed at an exhibition in Tokyo.

The “tranquility chair,” designed by Japanese nursing care manufacturer UniCare, is a rocking chair with a fabric doll snuggled into it. The doll is a larger-than-life blonde woman in a charming hat, with extra long arms ready to give a hug to anyone who needs one.

"It makes you feel safe. Anyone can use it, but it is designed for older people," a spokesman for UniCare told AFP at the International Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition.

An employee of Japan's nursing care goods maker Unicare demonstrates an easy chair for congnitively empaired persons "Yasuragi chair" at the annual International Home care and Rehabilitation exhibition in Tokyo on October 1, 2014. (AFP Photo)The chair costs 46,000 yen (US$420), and a special version has been adapted for wheelchair users.

Other products have also been designed with the elderly in mind. Around one-quarter of the country’s population is over the age of 65, and this figure is expected to rise to 40 percent in the coming decades.

Other products have also been designed with the elderly in mind. Around one-quarter of the country’s population is over the age of 65, and this figure is expected to rise to 40 percent in the coming decades.

Over 20,000 home care and rehabilitation products are being presented at the three-day exhibition. Along with wheelchairs, walkers, beds, and daily living aids, more unusual inventions can also be found.

One such invention is UniCare's “Life Rhythm Doll” – a robot which is programmed to assist the elderly in a number of ways, including by reminding them to take their medicine.

"They are comforting for people who live alone - they can talk to them and hug them. They also play old Japanese music, which is nostalgic for older people," a UniCare spokesman said.

The inventions could soon be used by a number of age groups all across the world.

A recent study revealed that Americans are more depressed now than their 1980s counterparts. San Diego State University psychology professor Jean M. Twenge collected and analyzed data from 6.9 million adolescents and adults, finding that Americans now have more psychosomatic symptoms of depression. Seventy-four percent of teens are more likely to have trouble sleeping than decades ago, and are twice as likely to have seen a professional for mental health issues.