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China Addresses Care for Increasingly Aging Population

Sitting on the sofa and listening to a radio program with a health care worker, 82-year-old Wang Xiaofen had no more feelings of loneliness.

"My sons and daughters all have work to do, so they find a health care worker for me from a private health care company," said the senior in an apparent good mood, still rather clear-minded.

Wang, who suffers diabetes, lives in Beijing's Xicheng District. One month ago, Liu Shuqiang from Yijiafu Health Care Company was hired to care for him for a monthly fee of about 1,400 yuan (US$205).

Like Wang, more elderly persons will enjoy such care in future as the country strives to provide its aging population with a sound and rich life.

Currently, China has 153 million aged 60 and above, or about 11 percent of the total population. By 2020, the number will rise to 248 million.

To promote services for pensioners, earlier this year the country set the goal of promoting care services for the elderly in all urban communities by 2010. In rural areas, 80 percent of townships will have at least one welfare center for retired persons.

"To provide 'one to one' services for the old and make them get mental and physical care is an advantage of professional health care," said Huang Chunmei, Yijiafu's deputy general manager.

In addition, special welfare centers for pensioners are also a choice for the country's elderly on how to spend their golden years.

According to a China Aging Science and Research Center poll, about 85 percent of the seniors interviewed will choose to spend their twilight years in their own homes if special care is available. About seven percent opted for special welfare centers.

Special welfare care centers are still in short supply around the country. The number of beds they offer could accommodate only about 1.16 percent of current elderly population.

In addition, the high fees charged by the centers has also prompted many seniors to live in their own homes.

In large rural areas, the majority of elderly residents still rely on their sons and daughters to care for them when they are old.

A private survey on the life quality of civilians in 2007 showed 66 percent of interviewed rural residents said they would rely on their children when they were old.

"The services for the old should be socialized," said Luo Jilan, the China Life Care Association's secretary-general.

"More efforts should be exerted to develop community care services for the old so as to make more aging people with mean financial power to enjoy the fruits of the social development," she said.

"But no matter the types of ways in offering services to the old, the most important is to make them enjoy all-round mental and physical care."

(Xinhua News Agency October 8, 2008)

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