China running short of nursing beds as population ages

Updated: 2010-11-07 20:15
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NANJING - A senior civil affairs official admitted Sunday that China is running short of nursing homes for the seniors as its society rapidly ages.

The total number of beds in existing nursing homes stands at 266,200, equal to 1.59 percent of the total number of seniors, said Dou Yupei, vice minister of civil affairs, at a meeting in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province.

The ratio was lower than developed countries 5 to 7 percent and developing countries 2 to 3 percent, Dou said.

While facilities are limited, demand is increasing fast.

Of the 167 million seniors in China, 11.4 percent were older than 80 years at the end of 2009 and most of them are not able to live independently, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

"The pressure on nursing services for seniors is growing," said Li Liguo, minister of civil affairs, at the same meeting.

In the future, public nursing homes will mainly accept low-income seniors and those without families, Li said.

The government will encourage the private sector to enter the market and improve services, he added.

It also plans to provide financial assistance to low-income seniors who are physically or mentally challenged, if they want to move into a nursing home, Dou said.