Cafeterias for the elderly in China’s communities meet the need for a warm balanced meal

China’s rising aging population is facing a more prominent problem where many are not able to cook a balanced meal by themselves. However, in recent years new services such as senior cafeterias in communities have been provided to the elderly as part of the efforts to meet these rising challenges.

Xu, who lives in Chaoyang district, Beijing, headed towards the senior cafeteria of the community neighborhood committee for lunch. She revealed that as she usually lives alone and seldom cooks by herself, she mostly eats out for lunch at the community canteen.

“There is a wide variety of food in the canteen; the taste is good and the price is fair enough,” Xu said, adding that “the most important thing for me is to be able to eat and talk with my old friends during lunch time.”

Xu Min, granddaughter of Xu, pointed out that she once accompanied her grandmother to enjoy lunch at the community canteen. “The food tastes good, and since it is mainly run by the community itself, the quality is reassuring,” said Xu Min.

The cafeteria also has a telephone ordering service. “As long as you make a phone call, the food can be delivered to your door,” Xu noted, “this small canteen has solved a big problem for us!” 

Two elderly people eat at a cafeteria in community in Weifang City, Shandong Province. (Photo/

China has a rapidly ageing population. A report released by the China Development Research Foundation predicted that China’s population over the age of 65 will account for 14 percent of the total population around 2022.

What kind of services do the elderly need most? A survey shows that “wanting to have a healthy, nutritious and inexpensive hot meal at home” has become a strong demand for many elderly people, especially empty nesters.

So far, various parts of China have explored ways to set up cafeterias for the elderly in communities, which can be run by the communities themselves or in collaboration with enterprises.

Among others, there are plans to build a restaurant for the elderly in Zuolong Village, Zhuzhou City, central China’s Hunan province, which will provide a small amount of free meals for seniors every month, charging for other meals at cost price. A meal delivery service will also be provided for the elderly who are unable to move freely.

Innovation in the catering market for the elderly has led to current offline services, Zhou Qingjie, a professor at the School of Economics at Beijing Technology and Business University, noted.

“If the elderly have a higher demand for meals, the supply has to keep up,” Zhou said, adding that “whether the service modes can be better developed depends on whether they can improve themselves and stand the test of the market.” 

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