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Better Home Care for Elderly in China

A new service of supporting elderly people has been adopted in many Chinese cities, which enables them an access to care at home or at "elderly kindergartens" close by.


In Xunyang District of Jiujiang City in Jiangxi Province, the Bureau of Civil Administration has sent a free service card to 80 elderly people living in the district.


The card covers cost for 15-hour housekeeping services a month, including house cleaning, hairdressing, washing, provided by the homemaking service company.


The service provides the elderly people with much-needed home care and has been warmly accepted by local senior citizens.


According to civil administration bureau officials, the service will be adopted in all city districts next year.


In a nursing home in Shijiazhuang, capital city of north China's Hebei Province, more than 50 senior citizens are receiving such care.


After combing 75-year-old Granny Zhang's hair, Wang Ning brings her breakfast. "Here are your favorite stuffed buns," she grins.


Everything seems as natural as being at home, except that Wang never calls Zhang Guifang "mom". In fact, Granny Zhang is one of the 50 senior citizens at the Elderly Nursery of Mianliu District.


Zhang used to live with her son until he contracted an eye illness. Not wishing to be a burden to her family, she was also reluctant to move to a rest home faraway either.


She learnt the existence of the nursing home from her neighbors. Located in her neighborhood, it is only 10 minutes walk from her home and quite close to her son's workplace. Her son visits her frequently, bringing her favorite fruit.


Zhang is not alone. Currently the Mianliu elderly rest home has over 40 permanent residents, in addition to a dozen day-care members.


Cao Yuke founded the nursing house in October 2005 in "an attempt to help the elderly in a non-secluded environment."


According to Cao, who had been running rest homes or "elderly departments" on the outskirts of the city, most seniors feel lonely and unhappy when they are far from home.


Cao, thinking of her own mom, could understand how reluctant people are to send their parents away. "Traditional thinking encourages residents to take care of their parents and those who fail to fulfill the responsibility are seen as unfilial," she said.


So why not build a nursing house in the same neighborhood so that elderly people don't have to separate with their families?


Cao polled nearly 2,000 elderly people about her idea and, to her delight, 80 percent welcomed it.


Instead of being left alone at home by busy sons and daughters, elderly people can go to a nursing house to enjoy each other's company. Even those whose houses are being decorated could live in the nursing house temporarily.


Many experts and officials have applauded the idea.


"It is a new form of care for the aged, and meets their wish to be looked after close to home," said Wu Shuhai, Vice Director of the welfare department of the Hebei Work Committee for Senior Citizens.


There are more than 1.1 million aging people over 60 in Shijiazhuang, and they account for 12 percent of the city's total population.


A survey by the Shijiazhuang Bureau of Civil Affairs shows that only 12 percent of elderly people are happy with the idea of going to a rest home, usually located on the outskirts.


Nationwide, according to Li Bengong, Chairman of the Chinese Association of Gerontology, there are 142 million Chinese people aged over 60. This is equivalent to the aged population of the whole of Europe and accounts for 11 percent of China's population. How to best take care of them has become a big issue.


Hu Yujun, vice director of the civil affairs bureau of Qiaodong district where the Mianliu nursing house is located, has decided to promote the idea to other communities.


He also plans to recruit some "younger senior people" to work in the nursing houses. "They could open a 'time account'," he said. "When they get older and come to live in the nursing houses, they can enjoy free service for the period they devoted in the time account."


Supporting the elderly includes not only physical care but also mental care. A nursing home for the elderly in Nanxun City of east China's Zhejiang Province has offered abundant activities for the old.


The nursing home has a club including reading room, gymnasium, theater and outdoor court field, which is a favorite place for the aged. The club is open to all the residents in the town.


With a membership fee of one yuan (US$0.13) per month, members can enjoy all the activities in the club and a free health checkup every year.


Large parties are also often organized in the club through which elderly people from outside the town can get together and meet the local seniors.


(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2006)

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