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Silver economy sees more talent, infrastructure support

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-04-25 09:48
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An elderly couple watch wedding dress photos shot by their nursing home in Changzhou, East China's Jiangsu province, Jan 9, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING -- After learning about an automatic pill dispenser in class, Tang Shijie, 20, recommended the machine to his mother who operates a nursing home in the city of Changzhou, East China's Jiangsu province.

"Pills can be distributed precisely and delivered on time," said Tang.

As a child, Tang often played and did homework at the nursing home, and he views many of the old people there as friends. He hopes to improve the quality of their lives through the knowledge he has acquired.

Tang is a student at the School of Elderly Care Services and Management of Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, which started recruiting undergraduate students in 2021. He takes classes in medicine, management and elderly care, and in his free time, he looks after elderly people on a voluntary basis.

"The silver economy has huge development potential in tackling the challenges of an aging population. This is the reason why I chose to study here," said Tang.

The school has designed multidisciplinary curriculums and provides extracurricular activities, such as visiting and doing internships in elderly care enterprises and service rating institutions, to build students' skills in policy research, management and medical care, according to the school's associate professor Peng Xiang.

Peng said there is greater awareness within society about the elderly care industry these days, and this is reflected in the school's enrollment process.

"During consultations, fewer parents and students ask simple questions such as what elderly care is and whether it is easy to find a job by studying the subject. They are more concerned about course content and career development paths," said Peng.

He said that the stereotype of low education levels and low salaries of practitioners in the industry has been changing.

This March, 168 elderly care practitioners in Jiangsu were accredited with professional titles, among the earliest in the country. Lin Li, an official in the civil affairs department of Jiangsu, said the establishment of a professional title system will increase the social recognition of elderly care practitioners and give them a sense of achievement, thus attracting more talent to the industry.

Official data shows that China's population aged 60 and above had reached 297 million by the end of 2023, accounting for 21.1 percent of the country's total population. Against the backdrop of a rapidly aging society, China released a guideline earlier this year to strengthen the silver economy, with promoting talents and building infrastructure emphasized in the document.

In Nanhai district in the city of Foshan, South China's Guangdong province, a smart senior care service platform provides emergency support for elderly people, with eight staff on duty 24 hours.

A 77-year-old resident surnamed He recalled the time she used the emergency service to call for help during a medical emergency. As she tried to get out of bed, her vision went black and she slumped down on her side. Her relatives were living far away, so she pressed the emergency button on a device connected to the platform.

"In less than 10 seconds, a voice from the device told me that an ambulance had been arranged, and I was later sent to a hospital," she said.

The platform also gathers enterprises through establishing an online shop, providing over 140 services, including daily care, meal preparation and assistance with bathing.

In March, an industrial park focusing on the silver economy was established in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, providing financial support to accredited enterprises. The first batch of companies in fields such as biotechnology, medical equipment and livestreaming have signed agreements and settled in the park.

The scale of China's silver economy is estimated at about 7 trillion yuan ($985 billion) currently and it is expected to reach about 30 trillion yuan by 2035.

Han Ruidong, a researcher with the State Information Center, said that during the initial stage of developing the silver economy, which has certain public welfare attributes, policy support and guidance are needed to support the private sector.

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