Caring hands help seniors take the plunge

By ZHANG YU in Shijiazhuang and DENG RUI in Chongqing | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-06 07:20
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A senior resident receives an assisted bathing service at home in Beijing. Such services have become increasingly popular. PHOTO/CHINA DAILY

Company launch

In 2018, Wang Jianchun, 47, launched a company in Beijing similar to that founded by Jia and his wife in Handan.

Named Yuxiangrensheng, or Bath and Enjoy Life, the company had served some 700 seniors as of the end of last year.

"Usually, a male and female attendant form a team, so they can provide services for people of different genders," Wang said, adding that an attendant of the same gender as the senior helps with undressing and washing private body parts.

During bathing, seniors are covered with a towel, for both warmth and modesty, said Wang, whose team generally caters to three to four seniors a day.

"If there are too many customers, the attendants become tired, and any mistakes could have serious consequences, as numerous seniors have health issues," Wang said.

During peak seasons, usually in summer, the team handles about 60 orders a month, and some 40 to 50 at other times, he added.

Unlike Jia and his wife in Hebei, most of Wang's employees are in the 40-50 age bracket.

"The technical thresholds for this job are not that high, but it requires people who are gentle and caring," Wang said.

"We ask the senior's family members to stay with us as we carry out the service, as they know more about the person's health conditions, and can help avoid accidents," Wang said. He added that the bathing time is not that long, as many elderly people have underlying conditions such as hypertension and heart disease.

"Most of them cannot soak in warm water for long, as they may experience shortness of breath or tightening in the chest, which is very dangerous," he added.

"As many people need assisted bathing, we are willing to provide this service."

Lack of information

Due to a lack of information, it is often difficult to contact seniors, Wang said, adding, "This industry started relatively late in China, so public awareness of it needs to be expanded."

Du, from Renmin University, said that to ensure a smooth flow of information, an intermediary organization, such as a community service center, is needed to put seniors in need in touch with reliable institutions or companies that provide bathing services.

"Without policy support and relevant information, it will be challenging for such companies to develop, and some elderly people will not know where to find these services," he added.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that by the end of last year, the number of people who were 60 or older comprised 19.8 percent of China's population. More than 209.78 million of them were 65 or older, accounting for 14.9 percent of the total.

"Due to the impact of the baby boom in 1963, this year will witness the largest net increase to date in the elderly population," Du said.

He predicts that starting this year, China's elderly population will increase rapidly until 2052, when the number of seniors will begin to fall.

"However, in terms of meeting the demand for assisted bathing services, the number of providers is limited," Du said.

Furthermore, these services carry certain risks, and bathing attendants need to have professional qualifications, Du added.

Wang, manager of the company in Beijing, said, "More people in China started to become involved in the industry this year, but I believe that some of them have quit because of poor financial rewards, among other reasons.

"Others are waiting for the market to mature before entering it. There will always be people who need such services, so I choose to stick with this job."

Liu Benyou, 49, a male bathing assistant in Chongqing, is confident and optimistic about his work. He started in the job in 2018, and has become experienced in the role.

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