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China Offers Free Public Transport Rides for Seniors

The Shanghai Municipal Government has announced that starting from Friday, senior citizens aged 70 and above may travel free on all mass transit buses and light rail systems at any time except during rush hours.

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

On Monday Shenyang, an important industrial city in northeast China's Liaoning Province, began giving senior citizens aged 70 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 that it would raise the allowance and that it would be issued monthly. The amount of the raise is yet unclear.

By the end of last year the number of China's senior citizens aged 60 and above had reached 150 million. Out of this figure 2.3 million were listed as residing in Beijing, thus accounting for 15 percent of the city's total population.

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

"The loneliness on the part of the elderly can be attributed the fact that young people have fewer chances to get 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 aged," Du added.

(Xinhua News Agency October 20, 2007)

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