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China to offer nutritious, affordable and accessible welfare meals for elderly people

By Luo Wangshu | | Updated: 2023-10-25 21:06
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An undated photo shows an elderly woman dining at a nursing home in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province. [Photo by Sun Yidou/For China Daily]

China plans to offer nutritious, affordable and accessible welfare meals for elderly people to support elderly care at home and improve the well-being of the grey-hair population, officials said.

"The number of elderly people such as the senility, disabled, empty-nest and left-behind has continued to increase, and meal assistance services have become the common needs for the elderly," said Tang Chengpei, the vice-minister of the civil affairs, at a news conference on Wednesday in Beijing.

As of last year, China has more than 280 million people beyond the age of 60. Some have troubles or reluctant to cook for themselves three meals a day. How to assist them with nutritious and accessible food is the issue the government aims to tackle.

In China, some pilot programs have been carried out in many places such as canteen for elderly in the community, offering affordable and nutritious meals for elderly people at home.

An action plan to promote the development of meal service for elderly was released recently to expand the service nationwide in a convenient and sustainable way, Tang said.

The plan was jointly released by several departments including the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Finance.

According to the plan, the development of inclusiveness and diversity is advocated, with the principles of government coordination and basic guarantees, tailored and targeted regional measures, and proactive use of market mechanisms.

Efforts will be made to actively build a comprehensive and reasonable elderly meal service network that covers urban and rural areas, he said.

The main task is to offer elderly an accessible, affordable, safe, reliable, and sustainable meal service.

It aims to make the development of elderly meal services an important part of the people's livelihood, guiding local government departments to closely integrate with their local conditions, actively and steadily promote implementation, and adopt targeted policy measures from the aspects of service supply, quality, sustainability, and supervision, according to the plan.

"The plan focuses on solving the practical difficulties of assisted meal services for the elderly, clarifies corresponding policies and measures, and strives to be tailored, operational, and effective," Tang said.

It is encouraged to set up the meal service centers for elderly people in various facilities, such as in community center. Enterprises and government affiliated organizations are encouraged to participate in offering the service. Meal delivery services are also encouraged.

"It is not a free meal, but an affordable and accessible service," Tang said, adding that regional governments are encouraged to offer subsidies in accordance with their financial situation.

Preferential policies will be offered to the service providers to ensure the profitability of the service such as tax deduction and offering free facilities, so the service can be sustainable.

"A total of 18 provincial level regions have already carried out meal services programs for elderly people. Now we are expanding the network to the nationwide in a sustainable way," said Yu Jianliang, director of the department of elderly services of the ministry.

"The services can be flexible. There are many good examples to provide the service in various places, some using elderly facilities to offer the service, some setting up elderly meal at restaurants, and some opening canteens at some companies and schools for aging people," he said, adding that the next step is to offer guidance to integrate resources and explore innovative ways to offer the service.

As China has an increasing number of elderly people, great attention has been paid to the senior group, aiming to offer them a happy, healthy and long life.

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