How to cope with an old-age problem

Updated: 2011-02-28 09:41

By Cai Xiao (China Daily)

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How to cope with an old-age problem

Behind two elderly people walking on a street in Nanjing, is the Chinese character "fu" (which means happiness) on a wall. Analysts say the number of Chinese people older than 60 will reach a total of 450 million by 2050. However, many of them may not be happy to pay thousands of yuan a month to be cared for in public nursing homes. [Photo / China Daily] 

450 million Chinese people older than 60 by 2050, say observers

BEIJING - Zuo Ping bitterly regrets not seeing more of his parents during the last years of their lives so when he returned to China after two decades in the United States he was determined to set up a business helping the elderly.

"Caring for the old is important but there are not many businesses engaged in it in China so I decided to look for an opportunity to do so," said the former equity management company owner.

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, there were about 167 million over the age of 60 in China at the end of 2009 - 12.5 percent of the entire population. Analysts say the number of people older than 60 is increasing by 3 percent a year, reaching a total of 450 million by 2050.

Zuo, who is in his 50s, has managed an accommodation block for the elderly for two years since 2009 in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, where the climate is similar to California's balmy weather.

Unlike traditional Chinese nursing homes, Zuo's business puts special focus on the needs of his residents by providing a room in which they can chat, entertainment centers and a gymnasium.

"The people who come here are thinking ahead. They realize that it is a more healthy option," he said.

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Zuo added that many of the retirees come from big cities and are willing to pay for the privilege but are nonetheless initially wary because they harbor suspicions about China's healthcare system.

Zuo said he rented a traditional nursing home and spent several million yuan on refurbishing it. He charges between 1,000 ($152) and 1,300 yuan a month inclusive of food and lodging.

According to Money Weekly, a Shanghai-based financial magazine, nursing homes in Beijing and Shanghai generally charge from 1,000 yuan to 2,000 yuan a month, depending on the level of service. Higher-end ones can cost 5,000 yuan a month or more.

"The first two years were difficult but now I have begun to make a profit," said Zuo.

According to the businessman, few overseas enterprises have invested in China's vast market for care of the elderly. He is encouraging them to bring products, equipment and management skills to it.

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