New proposals for care of the elderly

Updated: 2014-10-24 07:59

By Shan Juan(China Daily)

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The government is looking at ways to relieve the stresses on the elderly and their relativesas China faces the challenge of an aging population, as Shan Juan reports.

China is considering introducing a government-backed, long-term insurance program to provide high-quality, sustainable care for elderly people who are prevented from living independently by illness or disability, according to Du Peng, director of the Institute of Gerontology under Renmin University of China.

Du, who is close to senior decision makers, said: "To cover as many people as possible, the policy needs to be compulsory and held by the government, in the same way that China's health insurance works."

Under the policy, people will start to pay premiums at a certain age, for example 45, and will benefit from the policy in later life if illness or disability means they are unable to live independently for a period of six consecutive months, he added.

There were 180 million people aged 60 and older on the Chinese mainland by the end of 2010, and at least 9 percent of them were completely reliant on other people, according to the latest census statistics. Statistics from the China National Committee on Aging show that more than 47 million elderly people in rural areas are now living alone because their children have moved to cities and large towns for work.

In urban areas, the first children born under China's family planning policy, which until recently limited most couples to one child, are now in their early 30s, and are facing huge pressures because of the need to take care of their parents, especially if the parents are disabled.

Social changes have resulted in large numbers of elderly people living on their own in "empty nests", which means they rarely receive any help from their children, Du said.

"People such as this, and the nation as a whole, are in urgent need of a long-term-care insurance policy, particularly because the nation is aging rapidly and the traditional model that care of the elderly is the duty of the family is hardly sustainable today," he added.

New proposals for care of the elderly

A tough challenge

Wu Yushao, deputy director of the China National Working Commission on Aging, said China is facing a tough challenge to look after older citizens, and urged the government to shoulder more of the responsibility for providing care for them.

"The country should start building up an old-age-care mechanism, especially for people whose children have left home, and who are unable to live independently," he said. "Insurance policies, such as long-term care and cover for accidental injury, should be considered first," he said.

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