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Free Public Transport Rides for Senior Citizens Extended

Shanghai Municipal Government has announced that starting from Friday, senior citizens aged above 70 are to get free travel on mass transit bus and light rail transport outside rush hours.

Shanghai is not alone in extending free transport rides for the elderly as part of the celebration of the Double Ninth Festival, or Sept. 9 according to lunar Chinese calendar, which fell on Friday. The Double Ninth has traditionally been associated with old people, and has been observed in the country since the Western Han period (206 B.C.-24 AD).

Shenyang, an important industrial city in northeast China's Liaoning Province, on Monday began to give senior citizens aged 70-year-old and above free rides on public buses.

Central China's Henan Province has been providing its 2,300 centenarians with a monthly subsidy of 100 yuan, while Beijing, which has been offering 311 centenarians a yearly allowance of 1,000 yuan per person, announced it would raise the allowance and that it would be issued monthly. Authorities were unsure yet how much the allowance would be raised to.

By the end of last year, the number of China's senior citizens aged above 60 years old reached 150 million, of which, 2.3 million lived in Beijing, accounting for 15 percent of the city's total population.

Du Peng, chief of the Institute of Gerontology with Beijing-based Renmin University, contended that senior citizens in China nowadays were economically better off compared to their parents' generation, but they were more lonely because of a number of factors such as the faster pace of modern life, larger apartments, and smaller families.

"The loneliness on the part of the old people has been caused as young people have fewer chances to be together with their parents for various reasons," said Du.

"I suggest that the Double Ninth Festival should be made into an official holiday in a bid to carry forward the fine traditional Chinese culture of respecting, caring for and helping the old," Du added.

(Xinhua News Agency October 20, 2007)

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