China's top legislature on Friday adopted a bill to amend the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly in order to improve care for people ages 60 and up.
The bill to amend the 16-year-old law was passed following a vote by lawmakers at the conclusion of a five-day bimonthly session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee.
President Hu Jintao issued an order to publicize the amended law containing 85 articles, which will replace a version of the law from 1996 and take effect from July 1, 2013.
The legislation came amid government efforts to find comprehensive solutions to issues facing the elderly population, as the number of Chinese senior citizens has grown rapidly in recent years.
The amended law says China considers it a long-term strategic task to actively confront the challenges posed by an aging society.
Efforts shall be made to boost people's awareness on adapting to an aging society and urge the public to care for and help the elderly, it says.
"These clauses carry significance for China in devising and carrying forward a national agenda on the aging population on strategic fronts," legislator Yu Jianwei told reporters.
China was home to over 184 million people over the age of 60 by the end of 2011, who accounted for 13.7 percent of the population, according to official figures.
Yu said China's elderly population is expected to exceed 200 million in 2013.
Statistics also show that China has more than 33 million disabled or partially disabled elderly citizens, and caring for them will be an increasingly pressing issue.
The amended law says governments at all levels should incorporate work regarding the aging population into the overall economic and social development plan and ensure that funds are available.
In addition to urging family members to care for the elderly, the law stipulates that the government will ensure a basic living and basic medical care for the elderly through the pension mechanism and healthcare scheme.
The government shall provide basic living, healthcare, housing and other services to poverty-stricken elderly, and it will support those elderly who are disabled but have no supporters to rely on.
The amended law says local governments will roll out measures that encourage organizations or individuals to offer elderly-care services, while improving supervision over nursing homes for the aging population.
Moreover, government authorities should thoroughly consider the needs of the elderly in urban and rural development project plans, with an aim of creating a safe, convenient and comfortable environment for them, according to the law.
Many of China's current development projects are designed based on the needs of the young population and are inconvenient for the elderly, said Dang Junwu, deputy chief of the China Research Center on Aging.
"Some six- or seven-story apartment buildings in cities just have no elevators," he said, offering an example.
China should move to make its public facilities more elderly-friendly, according to experts.