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Elders' problems centrestage at forum
By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-08 21:40

Granny Jin -- in her late 60s --fainted and fell while taking a bath alone at home in Beijing earlier this year.

Her body was found several days later.

Experts said if Jin, who suffered a heart attack, had received immediate medical aid, it is likely her life could have been saved.

China is now an aging society. For the country's millions of elderly, home can become one of the most dangerous places if they live alone and fail to stay in touch with the outside world.

At national forum on elderly care in Beijing, leaders in the burgeoning social field and elders discussed ways to provide solutions to elders' problems.

Officials at the second national forum for leaders of elderly homes have called for the establishment of an efficient social security system that can provide a way to help the elderly.

Sponsored by the China Charity Federation and Hong Kong Bank Foundation, the forum also issued a set of training textbooks focusing on elderly care.

The nation launched elderly care standards last year and specialists can only be placed in a job as an elderly care nurse after receiving training and becoming certified.

Hong Kong Bank Foundation has donated 15,000 sets of elderly care training textbooks to 150 elderly homes across the nation.

"The textbook, the result of one-year of hard work of hundreds of elderly care experts across the nation, has provided technical support to the improvement of the country's old social security system," said Yan Qingchun, deputy director of the Social Welfare and Social Affairs Department under the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The country has more than 40,000 elderly homes which provide residence to about 1 per cent of the elderly.

"Since most elderly prefer to stay at home to enjoy their later years, a complete community care system needs to be established to provide in-time, open-door services to the elderly," Yan said.

The country has issued favourable policies to encourage investors, both government and non-government, to develop elderly care projects.

According to statistics from the National Population and Family Planning Commission, the country's top population policy-maker, from 2000 to 2007, residents who are 65 or older will increase from the current less than 100 million to more than 200 million, up over 4 million per year and the aged will make up 14 per cent of the total population.

This figure is projected to shoot up dramatically in the decades immediately ahead.

The commission's own predictions indicate the proportion of the population 65 or older will surge to 24 per cent by 2050, meaning that China will boast a staggering 400 million elders over 65 by around 2050.

"Declining fertility rates, partly the result of national family planning policies, and prolonged life expectancies are the two main factors behind the fast-growing aging population," said Zhang Yan, a sociologist on elderly welfare.

"China's situation is accompanied by persistent employment pressures and a patchy social security system, and this is all unfolding while it is still an economically developing country," Zhang said.

China must urgently bolster its inadequate social security and health care systems, which are poorly funded at present, Zhang said.

By the end of 2002, the social security umbrella covered only 14 per cent of all the work force, of which almost all were urban workers.

Without a sufficient pension system, families still represent the last resort for most aging Chinese today.

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