China applies high technologies in elderly care

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/26 19:25:26

Senior residents spend leisure time outside in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province. Photo: VCG

After seeing a food delivery request from a couple of elderly empty-nesters nearby on "Time bank," a volunteer service app enabling care for seniors, Wang Shaokang clicked the "accept order." 

Wang, who was born after 1995, is a volunteer based in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province. After he delivered a hot meal from a senior service center to the old couple's home, his service was recorded online and the service time can be transferred into other services he may need in the future. 

In other words, Wang is making deposits for his elderly life.

According to the working office on ageing population in China, there will be as many as 487 million elderly people in China by 2050. The country's aging population and the need to support them pose an urgent social problem for China to tackle.

Nanjing is one of the first batches of cities that became an elder society with 1.47 million of its population above the age of 60, 21 percent of its total population. The elderly population increases by 4 to 5 percent annually.

Multiple methods have been introduced in the city to help aging people. 

Xu Wenzheng, an official of Jianye district in Nanjing, said that the generation born after 1995 grew under the companionship of the internet, and many of them would provide services for the elderly in their spare time. They don't see voluntary service as a burden, and in fact enjoy the fun of giving, reported China Youth Daily. 

"Time bank," an emerging elderly-care method piloting in many Chinese cities, tries to break geographic boundaries of caring for the elderly with new technologies such as blockchain. 

Xu said that Nanjing introduced "Time bank" in 2012, and devised a set of working mechanisms. 

A senior resident in Beijing talks to her child via an AI-based platform in a nursing home in Beijing. Photo: VCG

As many as 26,000 volunteers have registered on "Time bank" in Nanjing. 

According to a survey on "will you try mutual support elderly care system? " which was conducted among 4,557 netizens by China Youth Daily's account on Sina Weibo on November 20, 65.3 percent respondents would like to try "Time bank," 14.8 percent oppose the idea and 19.9 percent of them take a neutral attitude.

China's elderly demographic is rapidly expanding. By the end of 2018, China had a population of more than 249 million above the age of 60, 17.9 percent of the total population. However, cost increases and service manpower decreases affect the elderly care sector.

The app also encountered some problems such as guaranteeing accurate service times, ensuring a safe record of service time as the data might be lost or wrong, and making sure volunteers can use their services in other cities.

In October, the Taoyuan community of Jianye district of Nanjing tried to store service time in Alipay and the whole process uploaded to blockchain. On Wednesday, the method was promoted to the whole district, which makes Jianye the first district with "Time bank" to use blockchain in China.

Wu Fang, a blockchain engineer of the Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate company of the Alibaba Group, said that blockchain technology makes the storage and exchange of service time open and transparent. It prevents data loss and supports service time exchange across different agencies and districts. The company started blockchain technology development in 2016 and applied the technology in various sectors including elderly care.

According to China Youth Daily, the accumulated service time can be kept and exchanged when the volunteer gets old, be used to exchange services for their parents and families, and be passed to the next generation and donated to other needy elder people.

"Time bank" respects people's pursuit for mutual benefit and encourages more people to engage in elderly care services, commented on Friday.

With the help of 5G and blockchain technology, more heart-warming elderly support methods can be found, which is the biggest value and inspiration that projects such as "Time bank" bring to the society. 

The app has helped volunteers realize taking up part of their time to help others can help themselves.

In developing mutual help elderly care, the process should be constantly improved, and voluntary services should be made more professional, through, and standardized, allowing high-quality elderly services, according to

Since some services require volunteers to be alone with the elderly and sometimes provide door-to-door services, safety of both sides becomes a public concern, which requires the platform to place more efforts in registration and review sections, said the on Thursday.

In additional to blockchain, China has applied artificial intelligence (AI) technology in elderly support. Puleyuan, a nursing home based in Fangshan district, Beijing, uses TmallGenie, an intelligent personal assistant service, to control electrical appliances.

Elderly people can control air conditioners, curtains, TV and lamps through voice command when they are lying in bed or sitting comfortably on the sofa.

Nie Zaiqing, an AI expert of Alibaba AI Labs and developer of TmallGenine, said that more than one million Chinese families have used TmallGenie, and the company will develop more AI products for children and the elderly.


Newspaper headline: Serving seniors

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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