Senior centers giving new life to elderly as China’s population ages

19th CPC National Congress

By 2020, estimates say one-out-of-four Chinese citizens will be over the age of 60. Enormous resources are being devoted to caring for this aging population, provided by both the government and market.

CGTN’s Jiao Yang reports.

At the Pensioners’ Service Center, 60 is the new 40 for many of the lovely ladies, the oldest of whom is a sprightly 82.

They congregate and spend their days together, with most of their needs taken care of. The center provides medical checks, meals, legal consultations, and even dating events. All for free, or a nominal fee.

For those who can’t make it in person, the center works with service providers to deliver care at home.

Ask most people in China and they’ll tell you that looking after ageing parents is their duty; drummed into their moral code from a young age.

But four decades of the one-child policy created a unique family structure in which the pressure on the working adult can be overwhelming. Throughout the country there is a certain stigma attached to putting your parents into a nursing home, but with the increasing involvement of private care providers, some are seeing the upside.

“We play pool together, we dance together, we eat together,” one resident explained. “Ballroom dancing too, this is my dance partner… We’re like sisters.”

Communities where the elderly get their own flat and 24 hour on-call assistance are increasingly popular. They keep resident engaged and active, while also providing plenty of company.

But  at a cost of 13-20,000 yuan per month – about $U2,000-3,000 – it’s not an option for everyone. And in the short-term, prices aren’t likely to drop.

“Working in elderly care comes with higher risks, higher demands compared to other service industries. So we have to make this job attractive through pay, and that increases every year,” according to Gao Junsong, vice president of Yuecheng Senior Living. “Another is the cost of facilities. But we’re happy to see the government helping out.”

Wait lists are long, but once in, residents are happy to call it home.

“Here we can dance, sing, play Mahjong, try Peking opera, play board games,” a resident said. “Kids come from outside to put on shows for us every week…. It’s a very colorful life we lead here!”