Temple turns itself into a nursing home in fast-aging China

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-17 18:47:38

Residents of Jixiang Temple nursing home in Shaxian, Fujian Province, pray before a meal. Photo: CFP

As China grows into an elderly society, with more than 210 million people above the age of 60 at the end of 2014, how to take care of its senior citizens has become an increasingly thorny issue.

By 2035, it is estimated that 400 million Chinese will be older than 60, half of whom will need daily care.

In one of the many ongoing elderly care experiments, three prestigious Buddhists turned a temple in East China's Fujian Province into a free nursing home.

Jixiang Temple has been in operation for 16 years in Shaxian county. It provides shelter and care at no cost to the elderly. Anyone who can prove they are free of infectious disease can stay in the temple. Many of the elderly have a family but can't rely on the traditional Chinese method of family care as their children have moved to distant major cities for work.

The temple relies on donations from local villagers, Buddhist believers and other charitable donors. Li Laiqing, a doctor from a nearby town who is an apprentice of Mistress Nengqing, one of the founders of Jixiang Temple, volunteered to provide healthcare to the elderly residents since its establishment.

In 2007, a couple from Hong Kong donated millions of yuan and built two three-story buildings that allow two residents to share one room. At its peak, 87 people lived in the temple.

In tradition, people would not choose to live in a nursing home as long as they can still work. Few people in the adjacent villages come to Jixiang, as the local government provides them with a small amount of money every month.

In 2009 during the two legislative sessions, a senior monk in Fujian proposed the government popularize the model of using temples for old age care. However, so far no progress has been made in clearing policy obstacles like land acquisition for the temples.

Global Times

An elderly woman lights candles for morning prayer. Photo: CFP

Luo Yudi, 81, hugs Mistress Nengqing, a nun who co-founded the nursing home. Photo: CFP

Volunteer doctor Li Laifeng (right) examines the health of an old woman. Photo: CFP


Residents of the temple attend a prayer session. Photo: CFP


Newspaper headline: Eat, pray, age

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