Nursing homes to give Tibetans care

Updated: 2013-08-28 00:53

By Xinhua in Lanzhou (China Daily)

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Nursing homes are being built in China's Tibetan-populated regions to provide accommodation and care for the elderly, offering comfort to many who previously lived alone in deprivation.

Lozang is one of those who has benefited. Sitting on his doorstep in the sun, he leisurely spins a golden prayer wheel. Two elderly Tibetan women sit beside him, drinking yak-butter tea.

Before moving to the Central Rural Nursing Home in Xiahe county, in Northwest China's Gansu province, a year ago, Lozang lived alone, at times sleeping in a cowshed.

"I've not had any family for my whole life," the 73-year-old said. "I used to herd for others as a young man, but now I'm too old."

With little property or possessions, the retired herder lived in a hut with just a bed, a few chairs and some cooking utensils. He used to sleep in the cowshed because it was easier for him to go to the toilet at night.

Traditionally, many Tibetans lead a nomadic life. The elderly are usually left alone in tents while the young are out herding. In extreme conditions, old nomads have been found dead at home from either illness or the freezing weather.

Last year, Lozang applied to move to the Central Rural Nursing Home, on a 4,000-square-meter courtyard at the foot of a grassy hill. He wanted a better life.

The nursing home was built in 2008 and now houses 14 elderly Tibetans.

"I've finally settled down and have a cozy home," said Lozang.

On a table in his 20-square-meter room is a tray of apples and pears. He rarely eats fruit — his favorite snack is yogurt.

"The cook knows we Tibetans love yogurt, and he brings us that and zanba every day, as well as our meals," Lozang said. Zanba is a traditional Tibetan food made of fried barley flour.

The costs of the nursing home are covered by the government. The local government provides 2,600 yuan ($424) to look after each resident.

Xiahe county now has four such nursing homes, together housing 50 elderly Tibetans. Three more are being built.