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An old age problem facing local society

Updated: 2013-06-08 11:00
By Sun Yuanqing (China Daily)

An old age problem facing local society

Growing number of aged creates problems for society and opportunities for companies

Although it took her several months, Lyu Xuejing considers herself extremely fortunate in getting private nursing care for her elderly father in Beijing from a private operator.

An old age problem facing local society

Lyu's predicament was understandable considering that she had to balance her busy work schedule and also double up as nurse and carer for her 90-year-old disabled father. Much to her chagrin, there were hardly any government nursing homes or companies in Beijing that she could turn to for elderly care treatment.

Although she knocked on the doors of several institutions including the Beijing No 1 Social Welfare Institute, one of the best government-run nursing homes in China, Lyu was told she would have to join a waiting list of several thousand.

"It would have practically taken more than 100 years before I could even think of admitting my father," the 55-year-old university professor said.

After numerous phone calls and endless networking, Lyu finally found a government-subsidized nursing home run by a private operator that charges 5,000 yuan ($810) a month.

Lyu counts herself as extremely lucky. "The conditions are not very good but they provide round the clock care, which is very important for my father," she said.

Discussions on China often center on its size and economy but rarely dwell on its changing social and market dynamics including its demographic problems, nor the opportunities they present. Lyu's story points to how China is fast becoming the global hot spot for the business of aging and triggering opportunities for domestic and Western businesses.

To understand the aging business in China, it is important to also juxtapose the big numbers. The country now has a population of more than 1.3 billion that is expected to start shrinking by 2030.

According to statistics from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the number of those over 60 will reach 200 million in China this year, accounting for 14.8 percent of the total population. The number will increase by 10 million every year until 2025, making it the fastest increase in Chinese history.

A country is considered to be aging when 7 percent of its population is over 65, or 10 percent of its population is over 60, the United Nations said.

"The private sector will have a greater role to play in senior care and housing in China. In fact, they must take the lead, considering the limited resources the government has," said Yang Yansui, director of the Research Center of Employment and Social Security at Tsinghua University.

"It took nearly 60 years for the share of people aged over 65 in the United States to rise from 7 to 14 percent, whereas in China it happened in just three decades."

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