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Shanghai Expands Free Home Service for Seniors
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Free, government-run home care service will be available to poor people over the age of 60 this year.

The service was previously only available to people over the age of 80, but the government has expanded the program after a number of seniors living on their own suffered accidents in the municipality.

An estimated 100,000 elderly people will be eligible for the service under the new rules.

The municipality began offering home care service, including providing meals and clean, in 2004.

Over the past three months, three seniors were found dead in their own homes following accidents. They all lived alone and seldom had visitors.

Cai Huixian, 70, fell from the balcony of her apartment on the 10th floor of a residential building on Xinjian Road in Hongkou District on February 15. She died instantly. Cai wasn't old enough for the home care service.

"Local communities and the children of seniors living alone should learn a lesson from these deaths and give more care to those elders," said Sun Pengbiao of the Shanghai Committee for the Aged.

Anyone of the age of 60 can now apply for the service at their neighborhood committee, which will choose qualified applicants based on their financial and physical situation, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

The municipality will also install 20,000 alarm systems for free in the homes of elderly people living alone this year. The systems will be connected to the city's service center for the old, the Shanghai Sunshine Service Center, which was founded in 2001. In the event of an emergency, users can push a button which will send an alarm to the center.

"By the end of 2006, we will have about 60,000 users in total," said Wang Hui, an engineer at the center. "The new ones will be installed this month."

So far the municipality hosts 474 seniors' homes, holding around 50,000 beds, said Shen Yan of the Shanghai Committee for the Aged. There are around 160,000 seniors who live alone.

(Shanghai Daily March 7, 2006)

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