Services for the aged

Updated: 2011-08-18 08:17

(China Daily)

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Whether China can take care of its senior citizens in the near future will have an effect on the sustainability of its long-term development.The number of people above the age of 60 totaled 177 million at the end of 2010, over 13 percent of the total population. This is an increase of almost 3 percentage points compared with a decade ago, and the figure is expected to rise to 216 million by 2015, accounting for 16 percent of the total population.

Little wonder that the government work report this year highlighted that services need to be developed for aged residents.

The growing elderly population is only a burden on society if it is regarded as such and society will fail to tap their consumption potential if they are forced to spend their remaining years at home.

Traditionally, elderly people were taken care of by their children when big families of two or three generations lived under the same roof. This explains why filial piety was so important in traditional Chinese culture.

Now many urban families have only one child under the country's family planning policy and families with only old couples left, which are commonly known as "empty-nest families", comprise more than half of urban and rural families nationwide.

Providing enough affordable and convenient services for elderly residents so they can lead a comfortable life is an area where domestic consumption can be effectively expanded.

An additional 233 homes for the aged were created last year, increasing the nationwide total to 39,904. But even these more than 3 million beds can't meet a fraction of the needs of the rapidly increasing elderly population.

The central and local governments need to have a sense of urgency on this issue and make it an important part of the country's strategy for long-term and sustainable development. Such projects, if planned and implemented well, will be able to ensure that instead of being a burden, senior citizens are a significant new driver of economic growth.

On this issue, good planning is important as only quality services that cater exactly to the needs of elderly residents will be welcome and thus guarantee the project will succeed.

Both central and local governments may also need to consider providing preferential policies in both tax and use of land for private investors who are interested in providing such services.

Right policies and their good implementation will make the project kill two birds with one stone.

(China Daily 08/18/2011 page8)