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How China is improving how it cares for its elderly citizens

Updated: May 7, 2023

We hear so much about what is wrong in China and its abysmal record on human rights. However, I do not see the purpose of my blogs to criticise China nor enter into the rights and wrongs of the political arena, but to bring readers interesting developments in the caring of people from across the world.

It is hard to believe that at a time of systematic abuses against Muslims in China, there are some interesting developments taking place in caring for the elderly.

The Shanghai care network

In Shanghai a care network has been set up for its elderly citizens, one of the most vulnerable groups, with diversified facilities and services available. In Huangpu District, where the elderly population is above the age of 60 accounts for more than 44 percent of permanent residents. Many senior residents prefer a care service at or near homes.

Grandma Jia, 72, is bed-ridden, and her husband is 76 years old. The couple do not live with children. Under the city’s long-term nursing insurance, Jia enjoys bathing assistance service provided by professional nursing workers at home, relieving financial pressure and the caring pressure on her husband.

A safer and age-friendly living environment for the city’s older residents is being rolled out citywide as part of a renovation program of senior citizens’ homes. The Nanjing Road E. subdistrict where the couple lives was included in the trial with a 3,000-yuan (£380) subsidy provided by government authorities for the renovation.

Handrails, non-slip floors and a folding bath stool were installed. “All this brings big conveniences to our lives,” said Jia.

A fitness gym for seniors and a smart senior care platform with drug delivery services are also part of the subdistrict’s measures to create a care environment for elderly citizens. The gym has 56 members and is a venue for both sports and socialising.

The fun of nostalgic games.

A pleasant later life is the ceaseless pursuit, said subdistrict officials. A senior service centre will be established in the subdistrict in the future, incorporating bathing assistance, clothes washing, day care and meal services for elderly citizens.

At the “Ardor Gardens” senior living community located on the banks of Dianshan Lake in Qingpu District, elderly residents enjoy various activities including a painting exhibition, quizzes, nostalgic fun games such as block stacking, dice tossing and sandbag throwing, and a party at night where they can relax and socialise.

Residents are staying active and energetic with many pursuing new experiences and hobbies. One surnamed Ye, a retired teacher who has dedicated most of his life to teaching and research, is enjoying a pleasant retirement life.

“The wellbeing-focused environment near Dianshan Lake coupled with the caring service and people-focused operations have created a conducive environment for me to thrive. With many senior-friendly and fun activities planned, I feel young and energetic,” Ye said.

Construction of the second and third phases of the compound involving 455 furnished apartments in 12 buildings that feature senior-friendly designs has been completed, and new social activity spaces, recreational facilities and floral landscapes will be opened to further meet the needs of seniors.

These include a beauty salon, yoga room, reading room, meditation room, table tennis room, billiards room, and a handicraft art room, as well as rose, cherry blossom, scented flowers and greenhouse gardens.

A community-based canteen in Xinzhuang Town serves the elderly.

Morning is usually the busiest time at Qinxin Canteen, a community-based canteen in Minhang District’s Xinzhuang Town, with staff preparing meals for elderly citizens.

“We have diversified catering options as there are usually more than 20 types of dishes available with very affordable prices,” said a retiree surnamed Wang.

“Diners we serve are aged between 60 and 90, and many residents began dining here after August when we resumed services,” said a staffer surnamed Zhang.

The canteen has veteran chefs to cater to seniors’ cooking preferences. It has seven delivery workers who start packing freshly cooked meals at 9:30am and deliver them to the homes of elderly residents.


Despite the appalling abuse of human rights in China some interesting developments in the caring of older people are taking place. Some of those developments are along the lines of homecare and the community-based canteen reminds me of day care centres in the UK.

People who attended day centres often told me that the main reason they attended day centres was the meal and the opportunity to meet and talk with other people. China seems to have locked on to the benefits of enabling people to meet in community settings. In the UK the concept of the day centre has been undervalued and not funded. A pity, because the day centre can be a means of preventing mental health problems, ensuring nutrition for those who need it and improving people’s quality of life.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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