Wuxi a model for elderly care
2018-10-08 16:00:00

He Xingyun, 85, said she knows how hard it was for senior citizens to live a decent life decades ago.

After retiring in the 1980s from a steel shovel factory in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, she continued working as director of the neighborhood committee of Xiaoli Huazhuang, a residential community in the city's outskirts.

"In the 1980s and 90s, most senior citizens lived with their children. Some complained about strained relationships with daughters-in-law, and some children ignored their parents, even while living under the same roof," He said.

"Some seniors in financial hardship lived an unhappy life depending on support from their children.

"... You won't be surprised that some senior citizens were mistreated," she said.

But things began to change in the 1990s, He said, when the local government began putting wealth acquired via the reform and opening-up into elderly support.

In He's neighborhood, free leisure programs, like dance lessons and comedy shows, were offered to senior citizens.

"Various types of free elder-care support, such as food, shower facilities and medical services, were provided, particularly for those living alone. Some social organizations opened day-care centers for seniors."

Wuxi is not alone in facing a serious aging problem.

By 2017, its residents aged 60 and older numbered 1.28 million, comprising 26 percent of the population. Among them, 175,100 were at least 80 years old.

By 2030, the city is projected to have 1.6 million senior citizens, 35 percent of its population, compared with only 10 percent in 1983.

The city has made various efforts to tackle its graying problem, and because of its achievements, it has been designated as one of the pilot cities in China's elder-care service reform.

In 1991, it made park visits free for people aged 70 and older and provided discounts for theaters, museums, hospitals and public transportation, according to the Wuxi civil affairs bureau.

In 2006, public transportation became free for all local seniors. The city also built many nursing homes and public facilities to improve elder care.

Today, Wuxi has 139 elder-care centers serving more than 40,000 people. It has given up to 800 yuan ($116) monthly subsidies to elder-care medical workers.

Qualified workers receive up to a 60,000 yuan bonus when they are hired by elderly-care centers.

Zhou Huiqin, 54, said that when she started working for Wuxi social welfare center in 1985, it just had several dilapidated houses and less than 100 lonely older people who had nothing to do but chat with each other.

Now, there's a 65,900-sq-m center with a fishing pond, fitness center, a basketball court and other facilities.

"I was the first professional worker at the center," said Zhou.

"The city is investing heavily to build a day-care center and a food service center for each residential community," she said. "More services that the seniors need, such as rehabilitation nursing, will be provided by the communities, to help them live a better life at home."

Source:China Daily Editor:Hiram