China’s elderly people better taken care of

KUNMING, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) — Zhang Yongfen and her husband, both in their 80s, walk to have daily meals with fellow senior citizens in a nearby elderly care center, where they are served tailored food.

“My son works in another city, and my daughter lives far away. They worry that I may forget to turn off the gas when cooking,” Zhang, 81, said. “It’s a big relief for them as the center serves good food, and the staff here are friendly.”

The elderly care center, only a few minutes from Zhang’s home, is in Guandu District of Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan Province. With an investment of 160 million yuan (about 24 million U.S. dollars) from the local government, the center was built in 2019 to provide better services for the district’s fast-growing elderly population.

With subsidies from the district government, a meal only costs Zhang 8 yuan. “It’s very cheap, and most importantly, it’s convenient for us,” she said.

Guandu, with 22 percent of its residents aged 60 or above, epitomizes China’s aging society. China currently has 254 million people aged over 60, more than one-sixth of the country’s total population. Ensuring that people lead a healthy and happy life in their twilight years has been high on the country’s agenda.

Xue Jin, general manager of the company running the Guandu elderly care center, said the center has been working to meet the increasingly diversified needs of local communities.

“The center now serves as a nursing home, a community center, as well as a provider of home-based care for nearby communities,” Xue said. While professional staff offers full-day care to those residing in the center, the facility also provides door-to-door services such as food delivery, haircuts, and massages for those who choose to stay at home.

On weekday afternoons, the facility turns into a community center where volunteers teach the elderly to sing, dance, cook, arrange flowers, make handicrafts, and use smartphones. “The center is like our second home,” Zhang said.

China’s elderly care system has been steadily improving during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), with a total investment of 13.4 billion yuan from the central budget over the past five years.

At the end of June, the country had nearly 220,000 elderly care institutions and facilities, offering over 7.9 million beds for senior citizens, which registered a year-on-year growth of 26.6 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.

The country aims to further develop its senior care sector and related industries and form a comprehensive elderly care system which combines home- and community-based elderly care and senior care service institutions, according to a communique released after the fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in late October.

The growing elderly care sector will unleash a great demand for professionals in related industries. In October, an elderly care training academy was established in Guandu, the first of its kind in Yunnan Province.

“The academy will likely cultivate more talent and professionals to meet the market demand and further promote elderly care services in our district,” said Wang Fang, director of the Guandu district bureau of civil affairs.

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