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To Help Residents With Dementia, One Japanese City Has a High-Tech Fix

Stickers with QR codes are just one innovation in a multi-pronged plan to serve the aging population.
An elderly woman walks past an umbrella shop in Tokyo.
An elderly woman walks past an umbrella shop in Tokyo.Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

In 2015, a record 12,208 Japanese people with dementia were reported missing. While most who wandered off were found, around 500 were eventually discovered deceased. Today there are approximately five million people who suffer from dementia in Japan, a number estimated to jump to seven million, or one in five people over the age of 65, by 2025.  

This month, the city of Iruma, north of Tokyo, launched a free service to help find residents who have strayed. A local company developed one-inch waterproof QR code stickers that can be affixed to a person’s fingernails or toenails. The stickers last about two weeks before deteriorating. The idea is that if a person is disoriented and lost, police can easily obtain their personal information, such as an address and telephone number, by scanning the sticker’s code.