Japan and cutting-edge technology go together like sushi and wasabi. However, the glamour of Japan’s technological prowess can sometimes distract from another major part of Japanese society: its aging, and often technologically averse population. Today, the country is home to some of the world’s longest-living seniors, and more than 20% of the population exceeds the age of 65 — a percentage that is growing every year.
Seniors are not known to be enthusiastic adopters of new technologies, and Japan’s older population is no exception — part of the reason why the country still sees widespread use of fax machines. Fortunately, one Rakuten team is looking to leverage Japan’s high-tech culture to improve seniors’ quality of life.
Staying connected to the community through Rakuten Senior
With over 100 million members and an abundance of lifestyle tech services on offer, Rakuten is uniquely positioned to engage with Japan’s tech-shy silver generation.
In June 2019, Rakuten launched a new service aimed directly at the demographic: Rakuten Senior. Established with the express goal of improving senior IT literacy and quality of life through the use of modern technology, the service provides a number of functions tailored to individuals 65-and-over, as well as family members of all ages.
The Rakuten Senior app tracks users’ daily steps. After reaching 4,000, the app encourages them to check into select local community centers, stores and even Rakuten Mobile shops, where they can scan their QR code and receive Rakuten Points. Points can then be used on many services in the Rakuten Ecosystem, or even for shopping at brick-and-mortar stores through the Rakuten Pay app.
Seniors can use the app to register for fitness and English conversation classes, musical performances and a variety of workshops at their local community centers. After an initial collaboration with locations in Kanagawa Prefecture, Rakuten Senior recently expanded its list of cooperating community centers to over 90 around Tokyo. The team hopes to cover all of Japan in the future.
Smartphone classes and C2C mastery
Perhaps Rakuten Senior’s most important endeavor is its smartphone classes. Despite its high-tech reputation, Japan’s seniors had been slow to hop on the smartphone wave. Over the last two years, however, things have begun to turn around, with 69% of those in their 60s and 48% in their 70s saying goodbye to their dated feature phones.
To address the new demand from senior users who want to learn more about their smartphones, Rakuten Senior is holding free online smartphone classes in which participants can learn how to stay connected from the comfort of their own home.
Rakuten Senior has also been collaborating with another service that has seen explosive popularity with older generations: C2C app Rakuma saw its senior user numbers double between February and May 2020. In 2019, it was revealed how senior users were flocking to the service to source fresh fruit, veggies and rice from local producers, as well as declutter their homes in a way that ensures their cherished possessions don’t go to waste.
Combating social isolation
Much of Japan’s elderly population has been stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, with families not wanting to expose their vulnerable loved ones to potential infection.
But while infection numbers continue to dominate headlines, social isolation and the effects it has on the mental health of seniors is a subject of real concern for organizations around the country, Rakuten Senior included. Through smartphone classes and online community engagement, Rakuten Senior hopes to see Japan’s high-tech culture serve as a foundation for a healthy, connected elderly population.