Mao Panzhong, a 73-year-old single farmer in east China's Zhejiang Province, never thought that one day he could have his meals prepared and his clothes washed for him.
But this is the real life he is living now.
Together with 49 other seniors, Mao lives a quite happy life in a retirement home in Daqiao Township of Jiangshan, saying good-bye to his former ragged and solitary life.
Neat and spacious, the apartment rooms where the residents live all have televisions. Some residents sit out on the lawns, which surround the building, enjoying the warm sunshine in the winter or listening to the radio. Others do exercise in the gymnasium.
Like Daqiao, other towns of Jiangshan have also built retirement homes in order to ensure happy golden years for those rural solitary elders.
Statistics from the provincial government show that about 80 percent of the total solitary elders in urban and rural areas of the province have been accommodated with in the old folk's homes, thanks to the local government's efforts.
Economically developed, east China's Zhejiang Province becomes the first to widely adopt this way of providing for the solitary aged in the country. The program is funded mainly by local governments.
This is also part of a plan initiated in 2003, in which the Chinese government will "provide for those elders with no spouse or children."
In October 2004, the State Council, or the Chinese cabinet, issued a document to order local governments to make more efforts to ensure a better life for solitary seniors in urban or rural areas.
"As a pilot city under the plan, Jiangshan has made great progress in providing for solitary elders," said Mao Jianhua, a senior official of the city. "Of the total 2,035 solitary elders, 1,644 are living in old folk's homes."
Mao added that these elders are also incorporated into the rural medical security system and do not have to worry about the costs of seeing doctors anymore if they are ill.
Wang Shanhong, 70, is also a farmer living alone in Jiangshan. Because of old age, he could not do farm work or live alone.
"To my delight, the others here even held a party to celebrate my 70th birthday on the eve of the New Year," Wan said.
Governments at all levels of Zhejiang will increase financial support in building more retirement homes, provincial Governor Lu Zushan said.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, other provinces such as Guangdong and Shandong have also adopted similar measures.
(Xinhua News Agency January 27, 2005)