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Communities give care for elderly

Updated: 2013-10-14 06:51
By He Dan ( China Daily)

Wang Jinling lives alone with her pet dog in Beijing's Haidian district.

The 82-year-old celebrated her birthday on Sunday, the same day China's 194 million senior citizens marked Chongyang Festival, the Day for the Elderly.

The retiree used to worry she would end up in a nursing home as her health deteriorated with age and she suffered arthritis, a heart attack and a stroke. Wang's son lives a busy life and he visits her once a week.

"I've lived in this community for years, and my neighbors and I are close friends, so it would be scary for me to move to a new environment," she said.

To Wang's relief, CAJ Senior Care Services set up a branch in her community in May as part of the district civil affairs bureau's efforts to enlist help from private companies to improve senior care services.

Haidian is home to some 410,000 seniors who have Beijing hukou, or household registration, and a survey shows only 12 percent of those aged 70 are happy to spend their later years in care homes, according to Li Jie, deputy head of the district civil affairs bureau.

Wang requires regular massage treatments to ease her joint pain.

In the past, she spent 28 yuan ($4.60) for a round trip by taxi between her home and a nearby hospital, although her medical insurance covered the cost of the massage.

"Now, I just need to walk 50 meters to the community center to get a massage for 40 yuan," she said, adding she needs to pay a little more but saves a lot of time and energy previously spent traveling.

The 600-square-meter center offers more than massage for seniors like Wang. It serves more than 1,000 elderly people from seven communities and provides personal care including bathing, rehabilitation exercise, companions for doctors' visits, domestic help and the arrangement of special care such as hospice beds.

As a pilot program of multiple cooperation, the subdistrict government office provided a rent-free building, the Disabled Persons' Federation donated rehabilitation equipment, and the district civil affairs department subsidized 50 underprivileged elderly with coupons worth 10,000 yuan to purchase services in the center.

The community clinic also closely works with the center by sending doctors to visit patients who call the center for help.

Helen Chen, marketing and public relations manager for CAJ, said the company has introduced service standards and procedures from Right at Home, a leading home care company in the United States.

Wang said she visits the center twice a week for a massage, to have her blood pressure taken, and to play games designed to help prevent Alzheimer's disease.

The Haidian district government plans to sponsor the launch of 60 community senior service centers by the end of this year with a total investment of more than 6 million yuan, Li from the district civil affairs bureau said.

However, although China's accelerated population aging has created huge demand for senior services, the expansion of senior care services may fail to meet the government's initial goals.

As a five-year plan to develop the senior service system from 2011 to 2015, the government set the goal of ensuring all urban communities and half of rural communities had daytime care centers for seniors by 2015.

However, less than half of that task has yet been accomplished with less than half the time left, said Zhan Chengfu, director of the division on social welfare and charity of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The government will work harder to make sure the favorable policies can be implemented to encourage the involvement of the private sector in providing community-based senior services, he said.

He also reiterated that the central government will invest 3 billion yuan before the end of 2015 to speed up construction projects of senior care centers in rural areas, and his ministry will urge the financial authorities to improve subsidies for the elderly to purchase care services.

hedan@chinadaily.com.cn

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