Aging communities not too old to change

Updated: 2012-12-18 09:03

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

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Tailored services

Yanyun West, which stands across from Longzang, also faces challenges endemic to aging neighborhoods. "We are lucky enough to receive government-funded social services, which is not a common practice in all communities," said Liu Ye, director of the local residents' committee, who added that the district government pays 2 million yuan annually for the social service.

One of the featured activities, specifically designed for Yanyun West's senior residents, is finger exercises, which improve digital flexibility, allowing seniors to insert keys with ease.

"These are the kind of services an aging community needs. Although many communities have a similar infrastructure, an activity center or a canteen, they do not have such a tailored service. That's more important than facilities," said Li.

Gao Zhongqiong, 48, admitted that she never talked to her neighbors before the reforms and the introduction of the social service project.

"In the past I didn't know the person living next door, but now I help her every day. She finds it difficult to walk, so I help her downstairs for fresh air," she said.

Gao said her attitude changed when social workers helped her join the health insurance system and saved her tens of thousands of yuan.

"I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago. Before the young man from the service center came to me, I didn't realize that I could use the insurance. The social workers visited me frequently and I felt their concern and care. Now I repay them by reaching out to other neighbors in need," she said.

She regularly helps the senior get a haircut and also dispatches books and stationery to needy children living in the city's outer areas.

The after-effects of chemotherapy have left her face swollen, but her glowing cheeks indicate slow recovery and a sense of fulfillment.

Encouraging community spirit is a prime responsibility of the government-funded social service center, according to Li. "It will always be one-directional and less resourceful to rely on community service centers or governments for help. Only when the residents themselves are motivated will a virtuous cycle of self-service and self-governance grow," he said.

Li's emphasis on motivating residents stems from a concern that government funding may not be sustainable. "Although the provincial government has reached a consensus on improving social management, there may be policy changes and funding fluctuations in the future. It is always better to be self-sufficient," he said.

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