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New Support Service Offers Elders Home Care
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A new service of supporting elderly people has been adopted in many Chinese cities, which enables them an access to care at home or at "elderly kindergartens" close by.

In Xunyang District of Jiujiang City in east China's Jiangxi Province, the Bureau of Civil Administration has sent a free service card to each of the 80 elderly people living in the district.

The card covers cost for 15-hour housekeeping services a month,including house cleaning, hairdressing, washing, provided by the homemaking service company.

The service provided the elderly people with care by the government at home is warmly accepted by local senior people.

According to officials of the civil administration bureau, the service will be adopted in all districts of the city next year.

In a nursing house, or "rest home for the elderly" in Shijiazhuang, capital city of north China's Hebei Province, more than 50 senior citizens are receiving homelike care.

After combing 75-year-old Granny Zhang's hair, Wang Ning bringsher breakfast. "Here are your favorite stuffed buns," she grins.

Everything seems as natural as being at home, except that Wang never calls Zhang Guifang "mom". In fact, Granny Zhang is one of the 50 senior citizens at the Elderly Nursery of Mianliu District.

Zhang used to live with her son until he contracted an eye illness. She didn't want to be a burden of the family, but she wasreluctant to move to a rest home faraway either.

She learnt that there is a nursing home from her neighbors. Located in her neighborhood, it is only 10 minutes walk from her home and quite close to her son's workplace.

Her son visits her frequently, bringing her favorite fruit.

Zhang is not alone. Currently the Mianliu elderly rest home hasover 40 permanent residents, in addition to a dozen more temporaryand daytime members.

Cao Yuke founded the nursing house in October 2005 in "an attempt to help the elderly in a non-secluded environment".

According to Cao, who had been running rest homes or "elderly departments" on the outskirts, most seniors feel lonely and unhappy when they are far from home.

Cao, thinking of her own mom, could understand how reluctant people are to send their parents away. "Traditional thinking encourages residents to take care of their parents and those who fail to fulfill the responsibility are seen as unfilial," she said.

So why not build a nursing house in the same neighborhood so that elderly people don't have to separate with their families?

Cao polled nearly 2,000 elderly people about her idea and, to her delight, 80 percent welcomed it.

Instead of being left alone at home by busy sons and daughters,elderly people can go to a nursing house to play cards or chat.

Those whose houses are being decorated could live in the nursing house temporarily.

Many experts and officials have applauded the idea.

"It is a new form of care for the aged, and meets their wish tobe looked after close to home," said Wu Shuhai, vice director of the welfare department of the Hebei Work Committee for Senior Citizens.

There are more than 1.1 million aging people over 60 in Shijiazhuang, and they account for 12 percent of the city's total population.

A survey by the Shijiazhuang Bureau of Civil Affairs shows thatonly 12 percent of elderly people are happy with the idea of goingto a rest home, which is usually located on the outskirts.

Nationwide, according to Li Bengong, Chairman of the Chinese Association of Gerontology, there are 142 million Chinese people aged over 60. This is equivalent to the aged population of the whole of Europe and is 11 percent of China's population. How best to take care of them has become a big issue.

Hu Yujun, vice-director of the civil affairs bureau of Qiaodongdistrict where the Mianliu nursing house is located, has decided to promote the idea to other communities.

He also plans to recruit some "younger senior people" to work in the nursing houses. "They could open a 'time account'," he said. "When they get older and come to live in the nursing houses,they can enjoy free service for the period they devoted in the time account."

Supporting the elderly includes not only the physical care but also the spiritual care. A nursing home for the elderly in Nanxun City of east China's Zhejiang Province has offered abundant spiritual care for the old.

The nursing home has a club including reading room, gymnasium, theater house and outdoor court field, which is a favorite place for the aged. The club is open to all the aged in the nursing homeand the town.

With the membership fee of one yuan (US$0.13) per month,members can enjoy all the activities in the club and a free healthcheckup every year.

Large parties are also often organized in the club in which elderly people out of the town can get together and exchange with the local seniors.

(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2006)

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