Support for elderly

Updated: 2012-03-27 08:21

(China Daily)

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That 7,000 elderly residents are waiting for a bed in a home for the elderly in Beijing points to the escalating number of elderly residents and the shortage of facilities to meet their needs.

By the end of 2011, the number of Chinese residents above the age of 60 had reached 185 million, 13.7 percent of the country's total population. At the same time, there were about 40,000 homes for the elderly providing about 3.15 million beds, enough for only 1.77 percent of the elderly population.

The development program of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) aims to increase the number of beds so that they will meet the needs of 3 percent of the elderly population. This is still far behind the nation's actual needs.

The country's development strategy for taking care of the elderly presupposes that the majority of elderly people will spend their remaining years in their own homes with a convenient and ample supply of community services to provide support. For Beijing, the strategy proposes that 90 percent of senior residents will stay in their own homes, 6 percent will be trusted to the care of the community with the government paying for the services they receive. The remaining 4 percent will be taken care of in homes for the elderly.

Such a community-based strategy is the most realistic given the serious deficiency of homes for the elderly.

However, this strategy is hardly feasible unless there is adequate community support for the elderly. An investigation by Beijing News reveals that most communities do not provide the services that senior residents need and that, in most communities, rooms designated for senior residents to use during the day time were used for other purposes.

If development of community services, which has been written into the development plans of both central and local governments, turns out to be just empty talk, senior residents will find it even more difficult to enjoy a fulfilling life.

With the size of the elderly population rapidly burgeoning, there is no time to waste and both the central and local governments should make detailed plans to implement their strategy of developing sound community services. The more specific the plans are, the easier they will be carried out. It will also be easier for the authorities to see how well the plans are being implemented.

(China Daily 03/27/2012 page8)