China diversifies elder care services

With China faced with a growing aging population, it has been stepping up efforts to provide a more diverse array of elder care services to its silver-haired citizens by integrating homes, communities, and healthcare facilities.

Photo shows seniors having lunch at a canteen offering free lunches to those aged 80 and over in a village in Xiazhuang town, Rongcheng city, east China’s Shandong province. The city operates 363 similar canteens. (Photo/Xinhua)

A vivid example of such efforts is the establishment of home-based elder care centers, where seniors can receive a variety of services that include personal care, consolation, and dining services. Staff dispatched from the centers are also able to provide door-to-door visits to stay-at-home seniors who are being cared for by their family members.

“Many simply think that home-based elder care means that the elderly are cared for by their children and family members, which is one-sided,” said Gao Huajun, executive vice president of the China Philanthropy Research Institute at Beijing Normal University.

Gao explained that stay-at-home seniors also need door-to-door professional care services offered by senior care providers sent from elderly care centers.

The outline for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) proposed to integrate home-based elder care together with communities and professional nursing institutions, said Xie Lili, an associate professor with Renmin University of China.

Photo shows a 91-year-old man holding emergency calling equipment provided to those using home-based care services in Xinhong neighborhood, Minhang district, Shanghai. (Photo/Xinhua)

It indicated that the government is fully aware of the need to give full play to the respective advantages of families, communities, and elder care institutions, Xie said, adding that China will promote the integration of various elder care services moving forward.

Professional nursing institutions are the best option for elderly people living with physical and intellectual disabilities who need access to long-term care, Xie said, noting that China should promote integrated medical and elder care services to meet the needs of these seniors.

Beijing has set up more than 260 old-age care centers that can provide basic services, with these institutions covering more than two-thirds of the city’s neighborhoods and townships.

One of them is the Huafang old-age care center, a nursing home that was jointly established by the Shichahai neighborhood in Beijing and Huafang Old-Age Care Investment Co., Ltd.

Inside the center, there are health care workers and well-trained caregivers who can provide professional services to the elderly, including bathing assistance, haircuts, pedicures, and mental health services, explained Su Guilan, executive director of the center, noting that the center also plays host to a large number of elderly-friendly facilities on site.

“The center offers both round-the-clock and door-to-door old-age care services,” said Su, adding that the civil affairs department subsidizes the center according to the number of beds in use and the specific services provided.

“We used the subsidies to renovate and upgrade our center. Furthermore, government supervision enables our staff members to constantly review their work. With these measures, we can better serve the elderly,” Su observed.

“Elder care services that are accessible for all will become a trend in the future,” Xie Lili pointed out while explaining that social and government resources will be further mobilized to make elder care services more affordable to a larger number of senior citizens.

The number of people aged 60 or above in the country is expected to exceed 300 million-more than 20 percent of the total population-during the 14th Five-Year Plan period, making China a moderately aging society, according to forecasts provided by China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

Meanwhile, data released by the National Bureau of Statistics indicate that there are now 17.8 older persons per 100 working-age persons in the country. China is also home to tens of millions of seniors living with physical and intellectual disabilities.