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Subsidies Offered for Suburban Relocation of Elderly
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The Shanghai government is planning to persuade more inner-city seniors to move to rest homes in suburban areas.

The move comes as downtown rest homes are besieged with rising numbers.

Huangpu, Luwan and Xuhui districts are the first three pilots in the city scheme to grant subsidies to seniors who are willing to stay in rest homes in the areas.

The three districts are also planning to build more rest homes.

Policy specifics are expected to be issued in the middle of this year, the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau said.

About 10 percent of the total of 2.6 million people aged over 60 intend to stay in rest homes, according to a survey carried out by the bureau last year.

The number of beds available in rest homes, however, was less than 50,000.

Hongkou Rest Homes, in Hongkou District, which charges 1,000 yuan (US$125) a month on average, now has more than 100 seniors registered and waiting for a vacant bed.

"The situation has been like this for two to three years," said Yu Aimei, an official with the rest home.

Added to a lack of downtown rest-home beds, the higher prices can cause economic hardship for many seniors.

"My children had viewed many downtown rest homes for me," said Hu Xingdi, 78, now living with her husband in the Yiren Rest Home in Fengxian District. "They charged at least 1,500 yuan a month, which was beyond my family, thus I had to choose a suburban rest home."

The rest home has about 80 people living in at present, with 20 beds still available. Established at the end of 2004, it attracts seniors from the downtown area with its lower prices.

"For seniors who don't need any nursing, we charge only 500 yuan a month," said Shi Ming, director of the rest home.

"For those who need special services, including house-keeping, physical examinations or massage, we charge 600 yuan to 900 yuan a month, depending on service items."

The rest home has about 30 doctors and certified nurse attendants taking care of patients and seniors who are not able to live by themselves, including, a woman of only 31.

Bi Ying, from Pudong New Area, has been suffering from atrophic arthritis for more than 10 years, and lost the ability to walk. She was sent to the rest home by her parents, and has been living there for six months.

"Ayis [nursing attendants] do massage for me every day, and doctors give me a physical examination once a month," said Bi.

Bi said her family was stymied by the high cost of hiring an ayi for 24-hour caring. And downtown rest homes were also too expensive.

Although the rest home has tried its best to create a satisfactory living environment for residents, economic conditions still limit the development of facilities.

The rooms in the rest home have individual toilets, but no private bathing. Residents have to share a public room containing 12 bathing places.

Air-conditioners and TV sets are also not provided in rooms.

A hitch the city faces is that inconvenient traffic may make seniors hesitate to choose suburban homes. They fear their families may visit them less often due to the long trip from the city center.

"It's a fact that our facilities are terribly basic compared with the rest homes in the downtown area," said Shi.

"We can only manage to balance revenue and expenditure every year, and we don't have more capital to upgrade our facilities."

Shi said since the rest home's establishment, it has received no subsidies from the government apart from 38 solar water heaters.

"Generally speaking, almost all the suburban rest homes are facing the same problems as us," said Shi.

(Shanghai Daily January 8, 2007)

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