Virtual nursing homes in need of more funds
Experts call on government to boost support for home-based care
Local governments are being urged to boost funding for “virtual nursing homes” to cope with the rising demand for elderly care.
The model, which allows retirees to receive support in their own homes through a network of service providers, has already been put into practice in some areas, including Gansu province.
A virtual nursing home in Lanzhou has been operating for four years and has 88,000 registered clients in Chengguan district.
Elderly people can access 230 services by calling its hotline, such as arranging discounted meals at partner restaurants, medical treatment, cleaning services and entertainment.
“By putting in a call, I pay 6 yuan ($1) a day for a meal at a restaurant nearby worth 15 yuan,” said Wang Liwei, 77, as he tucked into a lunch of rice, beef and vegetables.
Li Peng, the deputy director of the virtual nursing home, said compared with the 20 million yuan it would take to build a nursing home with 300 beds, “a virtual one costs just 2 million yuan to set up and run, and can serve more than 80,000 people”.
However, funding is a problem, he said.
“It’s the main difficulty we face in ensuring the sustainable development of our service.”
In 2010, the district government allocated 6.4 million yuan to the virtual home, which handled 119,400 calls for assistance from clients. Last year, it was 12.99 million yuan and 472,100 calls.
Liu Wenjuan, general manager of the restaurant where Wang enjoys his discount lunches, said his business gets almost no benefit from being one of the home’s 126 partners.
He urged the government to provide more support to companies that help out with elderly care.
Home-based care for the elderly is becoming the first choice for many people in China today, so supporting virtual nursing homes would be a good direction to take, according to Zhang Baotong, a researcher at Shaanxi Academy of Social Sciences.
Ma Jie, a professor at Chang’an University in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province, agreed and added: “The government should invest more funds and train teams with professional knowledge and skills to meet the needs of elderly people.”
Two senior citizens eat at a restaurant in Lanzhou, Gansu province, in 2012. They ordered their meals through a virtual nursing home, which offers discount prices to elderly people.