'Eldergartens' soothe China's aging pain

Updated: 2013-10-27 16:29


  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

BEIJING - Nursing homes which bear more resemblance to kindergartens than traditional elder care facilities, have been sprouting up in China's urban communities.

It's a new approach to relieving China's worries over taking care of its rising aging population.

When they leave for work in the morning, young, and sometimes not so young, people take their parents to the "eldergarten", a health care center inside their residential community, and collect them again after work.

"It's a great relief for the younger generation, especially those from a two-income household like us, to have help taking care of our parents," said Li Yunqin, manager of Yihe's Home, a health care center in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang province.

Besides recreational facilities, medical care is readily available.

"It's like a second home here, but with better medical facilities and more friends," said Li.

"Their children are free from worries about safety and wellbeing when they are not around, and no one has to be away from their family for too long," she said.

The shortage of qualified nursing care for the silver generation has become increasingly obvious as China rolls into an "aging society", 10 percent or more of people at or above the age of 60.

A census by the National Bureau of Statistics showed an aged population of 194 million in China in 2012, 14.3 percent of the entire populous, and the figure will hit 437 million, or 30 percent by 2050. There were only 3.9 million geriatric beds available in 2012, helping just a tiny fraction of the aging population, according to Ministry of Civil Affairs.

It has become difficult for China's youngsters, nowadays mostly single children, to fulfill their filial responsibilities to their aging parents, or even grandparents.

Government funded nursing homes are either non-profit or operating at a low price, and must give priority to the disabled, those with low, or no incomes, or no family. They are not a solution to the problems of ordinary families. Most nursing homes are in the suburbs, inconvenient for children's visits.

Beijing has taken the lead in building communities for seniors.

Golden Heights, a branded senior citizen's health care center under the Landgent Group Co Ltd. in eastern Beijing's Chaoyang district, provides a family-style retirement life with medical care, for people living in a nearby complex.

The center is "home" to more than 60 households, with an average age of 82. The center has general practitioners, pharmacists and nutritionists.

An agreement with Beijing Municipal First Aid Center, has meant a first-aid station inside Golden Heights, convenient for nearby communities.

With its pastel wallpaper and handrails in bathrooms and on beds, Golden Heights has a warm and pleasant atmosphere. A mini-theater screens old movies everyday.

"Unlike China's traditional culture of taking care of the old by keeping making them rest, we encourage self care, " said Ni Haohua, CEO of Landgent Group Co, Ltd.

"What's more, we have tried to create a familiar atmosphere rather than a hospital," said Ni.

The center helps people hold exhibitions of paintings and photography, and even encourages them to make short films.

"Our dreams never die here," said Mrs Lu, 76, one of the first residents of Golden Heights.

For those challenged by dementia, there is a whole floor of rooms for them, with nurses taking care of them one-on-one. Toys are everywhere.

"It helps to bring back memories,"said one nurse.

Landgent has two "elderly kindergartens" in Beijing and Haikou, the capital of the southernmost province of Hainan. It plans more in Shanghai, Guangdong and Zhejiang before 2015.

The State Council, China's cabinet, issued a notice in mid-September on development of the service industry for senior citizens, saying China will have built up an home care system for the elderly by 2020.

"We will all get old one day," said Ni.