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center on aging and tokyo institute of technology reps sign an MOU
The UH Center on Aging/Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health begin their partnership with the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Center on Aging has partnered with Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech), the top national university for science and technology in Japan, to explore ways that technology can enhance the well-being of older adults.

Housed in the Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health, the Center on Aging will facilitate interdisciplinary collaborative research between faculty at the two institutions. A memorandum of understanding was signed in February during a visit by a delegation from Tokyo Tech.

“We know that the population is rapidly aging in both Hawaiʻi and Japan,” said Christy Nishita, a gerontologist and director of the Center on Aging. “Our mission is to enhance the well-being of older adults through interdisciplinary and collaborative efforts in research. This partnership with Tokyo Institute of Technology will help us bring innovative thinkers together across disciplines and institutions to design solutions that help older adults in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific-Asia region to live healthier and independent lives.”

Tokyo Tech delegation visit

A delegation from Tokyo Tech visited the UH Mānoa campus, February 22–24, to meet with UH researchers and community leaders in the aging services community to discuss technologies, products and other innovations in development at their respective institutions.

center on aging and tokyo tech delegates in front of gartley hall
Tokyo Tech delegates began their visit at Gartley Hall.

The delegation included Yoshimasa Mihara, Sei Konishi, Yuri Oki, Hiroo Ueda, advisor James M. Lisy, a specially appointed Tokyo Tech professor who lives in Hawaiʻi, and Cullen Hayashida, affiliate faculty from UH Mānoa’s Sociology Department, who facilitated the partnership between the Center on Aging and Tokyo Tech. Thompson School Interim Dean Tetine Sentell welcomed the delegation and representatives.

Ueda described Tokyo Tech’s 140-year history and its International Research Frontiers Initiative whose purpose is to “create strong global research networks and comprehensive support for international collaboration.” He shared emerging research by members of his institution in the areas of engineering, chemistry, computer science, transdisciplinary science, social science and more.

Sharing research

UH Mānoa mechanical engineering and Tokyo Tech faculty shared their innovative research projects currently in development during a hybrid in-person and Zoom brown bag session with a number of Tokyo Tech researchers joining the meeting in real time from Tokyo.

Among the UH faculty members who shared their research was Tyler Ray, an assistant professor in mechanical engineering. Ray has been developing wearable sensors that collect and analyze sweat from the skin and can provide critical information about an individual’s health status. Tokyo Tech researcher, Hiroyuki Umemuro, talked about his human factors research that studies whether robot listeners can evoke older people’s self-disclosure. Other UH Mānoa mechanical engineering faculty who participated in the session were Assistant Dean Song Choi and Professors Bardia Konh and Scott Miller.

Design thinking

The Center on Aging hosted a design thinking workshop that featured leaders of Tokyo Tech’s D-Lab facilitating a brainstorming session around the question, “How will we design for the second 60 years of life?” Participants engaged in scenario planning for a future society in which older adults will comprise a growing number in the population. Currently, adults aged 65 and over in Japan are around 30%, the highest of any nation in the world. In Hawaiʻi, that number is just under 20%.

The delegation participated in a meeting of the Kūpuna Collective, an organization co-facilitated by Nishita and Lindsey Ilagan of the Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute that brings together a collaborative network of partners who elevate critical issues, mobilize community assets, and drive innovative solutions that support and empower kūpuna in Hawaiʻi.

The delegation also met with other UH representatives, including Sandra Fujiyama, Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship; Aimee Grace, Office of Strategic Health Initiatives; Christina Higa, Pacific Basin Telehealth Resource Center; and Kathryn Braun, professor of public health and social work.

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