Competition and chaos
With the China National Committee on Aging estimating an elderly population of 221 million by 2015, the huge potential for private senior healthcare has seen the number of luxurious nursing homes blossom.
Yang Shujing has chosen to live at the high-end Yanda International Health City in the Yanjiao district of Sanhe, Hebei province.
“Although my children provided excellent conditions for me at home, I still felt lonely without my companions and my religion,” said the 78-year-old from Changchun in Jilin province.
She visits the temple every morning before strolling in the garden or joining classes provided by other residents, such as calligraphy and singing.
“The blend of activities helps keep me energetic and feeling young,” she said.
Zhang Bin, deputy manager of Yanda International, said fierce competition between providers of services for the elderly has led to a focus on the spiritual side of aging.
The home includes a Buddhist temple and a Christian church open to residents every day.
“We provide these special services to cater for the elderly of different religions because they are more likely to rely on spiritual ballast,” said Zhang, who added that the importance of spiritual satisfaction is now being acknowledged by service providers.
As the ramifications of an aging society become more apparent, companies have flooded into the elderly care market and invested in highend nursing homes. However, few have given due consideration to the tasks they face, which has thrown the industry into chaos.
Fang Jiake, deputy director of Hetong Senior Citizens’ Welfare Association, an NGO in Tianjin, believes the authorities should crack down on service providers that exploit government incentives on private capital for those providing services for the elderly.
“Some organizations have bid for land at less than the market price under the guise of building nursing homes for the elderly, while in reality they are working on real estate projects,” warned Fang, who said he knew of one developer in Tianjin who initially opened a nursing home, but later converted it into a hotel.
Zhang said Yanda International’s residents pay around 8,000 yuan a month for services, including medical care, food and entertainment. However, the complex has just 200 inhabitants, even though it can accommodate 2,300.
“The high price provides them with a good environment to fulfill their spiritual needs,” he said. “The charges are guided by the market and various regulations.”
Zhu Longying, director of the social welfare division of the Civil Affairs Bureau of Jiangsu province, said she always urges enthusiastic investors to think again when they tell her of their plans to build high-end nursing homes for the elderly.
“Some businessmen believe that the wealthy aged can afford expensive services, so they assume a profitable business model should be based on building hotel-style homes and high charges,” she said.
“However, most elderly people don’t need fancy hardware, all they care is about whether your institution can provide quality services suitable for their needs. The government will not stop private investors building luxurious senior care facilities, but overall, there are not enough beds in reasonably priced institutions that provide nursing and rehabilitation services for senior citizens,” she said.