Wu Zhenshan, NPC deputy and chairman of Tianshan Group based in Hebei Province, proposed at the second session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), running from March 5 to 13, to make use of overall communities to solve the issue of the aging population in China.
Wu Zhenshan, chairman of Tianshan Group in Hebei Province, proposed to use overall communities to solve the issue of the aging population in China.[Photo/China.org.cn]
The population aged over 60 topped 200 million in 2013 in China, accounting for 14.8 percent of the total, according to statistics released by the China Committee on Ageing.
Wu based his proposal on a survey he conducted prior to the session. The survey looked into the living circumstances of elderly people in heavily populated towns and cities across Hebei Province and found that the majority of them would prefer to spend their later years at home rather than in nursing homes.
Wu added, "The challenge of offering care to the elderly is very daunting as China is getting older and its nursing homes and care providers cannot meet the growing demand."
The problem, he said, is that older people are given limited access to public nursing homes, and private nursing homes charge far higher fees which the average family can barely afford.
The nursing care based on the overall community he proposed, is a novel model to provide care to elderly people. The main idea is to let the entire community, complete with proper household care service, medical care service and amenity facilities, take care of those older people who then just need to pay for the service when they need it.
The advantage of this community-based care can keep older people at home and additionally is more affordable and efficient.
Yet, the most important part of the plan is to have a sufficient number of suitable household care providers and place these within the community, according to Wu. He added that government would also need to pitch in financially.
The pilot program has already been rolled out in some cities, but is hard to extend to more cities due to a lack of standardized service providers.
He also noted that the rural aging population faces even more severe challenges as it is harder for them to be taken into a nursing home due to the costly expenditure. The absence of their children who have left home to seek jobs in cities does not do them much good either.
"Since there are some 700 million people living in China's countryside, the government should pay adequate attention to the aging issue in rural areas," said Wu. "Without the proper policies in place, it will become a very serious problem in the future."