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Doing More for Senior Citizens

China's social services provisions for its senior citizens fall short of adequate, and the social and economic challenges that face its ageing population has reached a critical stage, according a senior official with the National Committee of Ageing.

"The 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) is an important phase as far as China's undertakings for senior citizens are concerned," Li Bengong, vice director of the National Committee of Ageing, said at a workshop yesterday. The workshop entitled "The 11th Five-Year Plan for the Development of the Ageing Cause" opened yesterday in Beijing.

The portion of the 11th Five-Year Plan concerning policies relating to the ageing population will focus on the improvement of infrastructure, services, welfare and housing, according to Yuan Xinli, vice director of the committee.

"The country's population above the age of 60 will increase from the current 147 million to 174 million by 2010, representing 12.57 percent of the total population then," Yuan said. "And it is expected that by 2020, the number of elderly people above 60 will reach 243 million, accounting for 17 percent of the country's total population."

With a growing ageing population, social and economic challenges arise, healthcare for elderly women, for example.

Elderly women need more care from the government and society, Koh Miyaoi, program officer with the United Nations Economic and Social Council for Asia-Pacific, said.

"Gender is an important issue in the ageing society," she said. "Since most women live longer than men, elderly women account for a bigger part of the elderly group. In addition to the usual difficulties brought on by ageing, elderly women have to face the problem of gender equality."

In related news, Shanghai's municipal government announced in a government circular issued yesterday to add 10,000 new beds to the current 40,000 in retirement homes by year's end, and expand medical and entertainment services to accommodate another 200,000 elderly people by 2010.

By 2010, 100,000 new beds will be added, serving about 3 percent of the city's elderly people from the current 1.54 percent.

The figure, however, is still less than the minimum international standard of 4 percent, according to Zhang Shuping, an official with the Shanghai Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau.

Shanghai is also encouraging communities to build medical and entertainment facilities for the elderly.

The city plans for all communities to be able to provide medical and entertainment services for another 200,000 elderly people by 2010. Currently, 30,000 senior citizens have access to such services and facilities.

Shanghai has the fastest ageing population in China. 2.6 million people in Shanghai are above 60 years old, nearly 20 percent of the total registered population.

(China Daily September 15, 2005)

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