China to shore up basic elderly care system to deal with population ageing
Published: Jan 14, 2024 07:12 PM
Senior citizens exercise in a fitness club for elder residents only, in Hongqiao subdistrict, Changning, Shanghai. Photo: Chen Shasha/GT

Senior citizens exercise in a fitness club for elder residents only, in Hongqiao subdistrict, Changning, Shanghai. Photo: Chen Shasha/GT

At present, all 31 provinces in China have rolled out specific plans and services for basic aged care in a bid to accelerate the building of a high-quality aged care system, according to a Xinhua news agency report, citing a civil affairs meeting held on Sunday.

The number of aged care institutions and facilities of various types in China stood at 400,000, providing a collective 8.2 million beds, as of the first three quarters of 2023, according to Xinhua. Basic aged care refers to essential and inclusive services that meet the basic needs of senior citizens. 

In the country’s latest move to implement a national strategy to address population aging, the authorities and communities at all levels have improved aged care services by offering 235,000 at-home care beds as of the end of 2023 and have carried out the renovation of the living environment at home for 1.48 million households for older residents facing financial difficulties.

Based on factors such as economic and social development level and financial situation, local governments have specified a number of different care models for the elderly. For instance, in Central China’s Hunan Province, convenient medical service and at-home care are available for the aged group; local communities in Beijing provide the disabled elderly with barrier-free facilities, as well as subsidies for the assistive appliances for rehabilitation.

Other services such as legal assistance, elderly education, cultural and sports activities for senior citizens are also included in some provinces. More supporting policies are to be rolled out to strike a balance between ensuring elderly services and financial sustainability.

Policymakers have made aged care a top agenda as it copes with an ageing population. Official data form the Ministry of Civil Affairs of China showed that, by the end of 2022, the number of Chinese people aged 60 or above have surpassed 280 million, accounting for 19.8 percent of the country's total population. The number is estimated to exceed 300 million by 2025 and reach 400 million as of 2035, according to the National Health Commission.

In May 2023, Chinese authorities released a set of guidelines to all provinces in an effort to facilitate the building of a basic aged care system, amid efforts to pursue a proactive national strategy regarding population ageing and ensure equitable access to public services.

China will speed up efforts to establish a basic aged care system that is user friendly, sustainable and accessible to all aging groups across the country, the guidelines said.

In 2022, the compliance rate of supporting aged care service facilities in newly built residential areas in Chinese cities reached 83.2 percent. Outside the implementation of home-based care services and the upgrading of nursing and care-giving facilities, other services for the elderly include health management, expenditure cut for public transportation, meal allowance, and more.

The guidelines also pointed out that more resources should be mobilized to improve the capacity building, make sure the supervision and standardized assessment of the elderly population, streamline data sharing across the board, and a mechanism that can pinpoint those with difficulties and conduct dynamic management.

Global Times