China's over-65 population reached 98.57 million in 2004, accounting for 7.6 percent of the national total and 0.1 percentage point higher than the ratio in 2003, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs recently.
A latest report posted on the ministry's website shows that China now has 7,655 organizations with about 24,000 employees providing services specifically for old people.
China has also opened 8,521 universities for the elderly, which have attracted 1.2 million gray-haired students, the report says.
"It is the first time for us to publish official statistics about the society's services for old people, which are important as China becomes an aging society," said He Shanshan, an official with the ministry.
Earlier in March, Li Honggui, vice president of the Demographic Society of China, predicted that the Chinese population will reach zero growth by 2040, when those over 65 will account for 12 percent of the total population.
As the population declines after 2040, one in five Chinese people will be gray-haired, and society is expected to provide better entertainment opportunities and social welfare services to the group, experts say.
(Xinhua News Agency May 14, 2005)