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Nursing homes provide care for elderly Tibetans

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-08-27 15:08

LANZHOU - Nursing homes are being built in China's Tibetan-populated regions to provide accommodation and care for the elderly, offering comfort to many who previously lived alone in deprived circumstances.

Lozang is one of those who is benefitting. Sitting on his doorstep in the sun, he leisurely spins a golden prayer wheel. Two elderly Tibetan women are beside him, drinking yak-buttered tea

Before moving to the Central Rural Nursing Home in Xiahe county, Northwest China's Gansu province a year ago, Lozang lived alone, at times in a cowshed.

"All my life I have had no family," said the 73-year-old. "I used to herd for others as a young man, but now I am too old."

With little property or possessions, the retired herder lived in his hut with just a bed, a few chairs and some cooking utensils. He used to sleep in the cowshed as it was easier for him to go to the toilet at night.

Many Tibetans traditionally lead a nomadic life. The elderly are usually left alone in tents when the young go out herding. In some extreme conditions, old nomads are found dead at home due to either illness or the freezing weather.

Last year, Lozang applied to move to the Central Rural Nursing Home, a 4,000-square-meter courtyard at the foot of a grassy hill. He wanted a better life.

The nursing home was built in 2008 and now houses 14 elderly Tibetans.

"I've finally settled down and have a cozy home," said Lozang, who has a 20-square meter room.

On his table in his room is a tray of apples and pears. He rarely eats fruit as his favorite snack is yoghurt.

"The cook knows we Tibetans love yoghurt, and he brings us yoghurt and zanba everyday as well as our meals," Lozang said.

Zanba is a traditional Tibetan food made of fried barley flour.

In his spare time, he also watches Tibetan news programs on his 21-inch color television set.

The costs of the nursing home are covered by the government. The local government provides 2,600 yuan ($424.8) to look after each resident.

Xiahe county now has four such nursing homes, housing a total of 50 elderly Tibetans. Three more are being built.

The Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Gannan, which administers Xiahe county, has built 31 rural nursing homes, with beds for more than 1,000 people. So far, 333 people live in the homes, most being Tibetans.

Paldron, the oldest resident in the Central Rural Nursing Home, said she loves the place because temples are close by for her to go and visit.

Spending just 1 yuan on a taxi, the 86-year-old devout Buddhist attends pray in the Labrang Monastery 5 kilometers away. The monastery is one of the greatest temples in Tibetan Buddhism.

Gannan is home to some 400,000 Tibetan Buddhism believers.

Zhang Gaquan, director of Xiahe County Civil Affairs Bureau, said nursing homes are located as close to temples as possible in order to facilitate religious activities.

Although Tibetans are becoming better off and many choose to settle down in one place, Ren Limin, vice director of Gannan Civil Affairs Bureau, said, "Their sense of responsibility to take care of the elderly remains relatively weak.

"The burgeoning nursing homes give elderly Tibetans, especially the poor, a new choice of how to spend the rest of their lives."

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