China / Regions

Changchun builds up caring system for aging population

By Wang Zhen ( Updated: 2014-11-03 15:46

The city of Changchun, capital of Jilin province, is looking for ways to build a better system to care for its elderly, according to Ji Li, a senior member of the city’s civil affairs bureau, who made the remark on Thursday, Oct 30.

The UN defines “aging society” as having 10 percent of the population at the age of 60 or higher, and by the end of 2013, Changchun had 1.23 million people in that category, or 16.3 percent of its population. And, an aging population poses big challenges to the city’s inadequate senior-care system, Ji added, but, “The government is determined to tackle the problem.”

One new government initiative is to build senior care facilities in the urban area and in new communities. It also has policies to provide incentives for individual and institutional investors to open nursing homes and is encouraging new college grads to enter the care industry, with more financial support to be provided for opening or enlarging nursing homes and a 9,000-yuan subsidy per bed, to increase the number and capacity of care institutions to meet the rising demand.

Still, in spite of the government’s efforts, not all seniors express a desire to stay in a nursing home, according to a 2012 survey by Health Times, where only 11.3 percent of the elderly in cities surveyed chose nursing homes, while 12.5 percent at the county level did. For those who prefer to stay at home or somewhere closer, the Changchun government is providing a subsidy of up to 5,000 yuan for community-based care centers that provide the daily care the elderly need.

Chinese tradition calls for young people to take care of their aging parents, but, with the “one-child” policy, many young people find it difficult to provide the care their parents need and, in many cases, a couple may have to look after four elderly people and this has become a serious social problem.

Mu Guangzong, a demographics expert at Peking University, sees it this way, “I feel that the government should be the designer and provider of pension services and should promote the professionalization of senior people services.”

With a more inclusive senior care network, the Changchun government might make it easier for investors to find land for nursing homes, with extra subsidies for those who are disabled or have financial difficulties. But, even with government subsidies, which are crucial, a more comprehensive care network calls for more care providers and professional care workers. And, for smaller hospitals that switch to nursing homes to ensure more professional caretakers providing more high-quality services for elderly people.

So, the city plans to train more care workers in the field of elderly caring, rehabilitation, nutrition and social services and, according to Ji, the social welfare officer, “We strongly encourage graduates to turn to elderly care for work, and will provide them with the necessary policies once they start the job.”

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