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Ex-diplomat enjoys his own space in retirement

By Yuan Zhou and Ma Si | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-07 08:03

Ex-diplomat enjoys his own space in retirement

Chen Pingling, an 81-year-old retired diplomat, likes his 66-square-meter private apartment.Zou Hong / China Daily

Chen Pingling, 81, an ex-career diplomat with appointments including political counselor to Moscow, is an example of the kind of elite senior population that the Yanda retirement community hopes to attract and retain as residents. Chen spent his early retirement years in his own home. After his wife died, he moved to one of the best public nursing homes in Beijing. For the past five years, he has lived in a private retirement community in a 66-square-meter, one-bedroom apartment on the edge of Beijing. He has no plans to move again.

Chen spoke recently to China Daily about his life and retirement. The following are edited excerpts:

Why do you prefer a private nursing home instead of a public one?

When I was accepted by a well-known welfare institution in 2010, I was told that as many as 4,000 people were waiting for a bed there. But soon, I realized my room was like a hospital ward and it had no privacy. Nurses could come in at anytime to check on you. In summertime, the door was left open and there was only a curtain hung on the frame. I couldn't even listen to Western classics because I didn't want to disturb others.

Then I became one of the first residents in Yanda after I saw the apartment. It was like my own home, with privacy.

How's your life like here?

I have meals at the canteen, which serves small portions of food for seniors. I don't eat much. For dinner, I eat porridge with pickles that I take away from the breakfast.

At night, I'll have milk that is warmed in the microwave oven in the kitchen and then go to bed with my favorite musical numbers on.

There are many activities for residents. I'm an active member of the choir. I've taught other members to sing Russian oldies like Oy, The Kalina is Blooming, Katusha and Far, Far Away.

I've written and published books on politics and culture about Eastern Europe. Sometimes, young authors ask for my comments or a preface for their works on the topic.

If you want to go back to Beijing to visit friends, they have regular shuttle-buses to downtown areas with nurses tagging along.

Have you visited any foreign nursing homes?

I went to college in Prague in the early 1950s, majoring in Czech history. I have friends there including a rich art collector and former diplomat to China who was in the best nursing home in Prague. I think my apartment is nicer than his in terms of furnishings and amenities.

What about the costs?

I pay 4,500 yuan ($666) per month for the apartment and services. The meals cost 10 to 20 yuan each. My pension of 8,500 yuan a month is more than enough for the expenses.

Are there any areas where the provider can improve?

Getting reimbursed for medical bills remains a big problem for residents here. We have full health coverage in Beijing, but still have to pay up front at the hospital.

Do you have any plans to move?

No. I'm comfortable here. They offer all-in-one services from retirement to grave. When you're healthy, you stay in the self-help area. When you're not, you stay in a partial-help or full-help area. The hospital is just a few minutes away by foot. I've heard stories of residents whose lives were saved by the doctors at the hospital. They might not have been able to make it if they'd stayed in their own homes.


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