Wait for seniors home bed: 100 years

Updated: 2013-01-18 08:02

By He Dan and Jin Haixing (China Daily)

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 Wait for seniors home bed: 100 years

Residents at Beijing's Dongzhimen Community Nursing Home watch face changes, a move of the Sichuan Opera, at the home. Lu Peng / Xinhua

The waiting lists for a bed in a public elderly care home in Beijing have grown so long that some are saying it could take 100 years for an applicant to get a position.

Cao Shujuan, deputy director of the Beijing No 1 Social Welfare House, said about 10,000 elderly people are waiting to enter the home and "the number keeps growing".

The home has about 1,100 beds and was given a five-star rating by Beijing's Bureau of Civil Affairs in October.

"We may not have the best facilities. Our advantage lies in service, which is what seniors care most about," Cao said, adding the house has a geriatric specialty hospital and some 100 nursing staff members.

"Once enrolled, seniors can live here for the rest of their lives," she said.

"Because they have received good care, they feel happier and live longer. So our turnover rate is very low annually."

The house charges residents 1,500 yuan ($240) to 2,700 yuan for a bed per month, according to its October pricing leaflet.

"More than 10,000 people are on the waiting list, but the care home only takes from a few dozen to 100 a year, so it can take 100 years for an applicant to be enrolled," Beijing Evening News quoted an anonymous source as saying.

Beijing's population aged 60 and older doubled to about 2.5 million in the past decade. However, the city can only provide about 28 beds for every 1,000 seniors.

Government-funded care homes for the elderly, which offer low prices and good quality service, end up with long waiting lists and become out of reach for ordinary people.

Xiang Zhengwei, 82, who lives in Anhuili No 2 Community with his 78-year-old wife, are still waiting for a bed in the Fifth Social Welfare Institution of Beijing, which they applied at five years ago.

"We were told we needed to wait for 10 years," Xiang's wife said.

The couple's two daughters live overseas.

They want to move into a nursing home close to hospitals and have found some in suburban areas. But they charge more than 5,000 yuan for a bed per month, which the couple cannot afford.

Li Wanjun, head of the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau, said the government has speeded up building more nursing homes, but many lack high-quality services and a well-trained nursing staff.

"We will make greater efforts to improve community-based care for the elderly so they can spend their old age at home," he said.

Beijing's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) mapped out a strategy to enable 4 percent of its elderly residents, who are physically or mentally challenged and thus unable to live independently, to be institutionalized by the end of 2015, with the rest enjoying nursing at home or in communities.

Du Peng, director of the Gerontology Institute at Renmin University of China, said public nursing homes should prioritize enrolling low-income seniors in poor health who have no family members to look after them.

"'First come, first served' is not a good system, because some healthy elderly people may live in public care homes, and it leads to a waste of public resources," he said.

Zhu Ping, who works for a daycare center in Beijing, urged the government to provide more subsidies for the elderly to help them better afford nursing services.

"The government has heavily funded public care homes, so their prices are lower than private ones. It's unfair competition, and the public ones can only benefit a small number of people," he said.

Contact the writers at hedan@chinadaily.com.cn and jinhaixing@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 01/18/2013 page4)