Pioneering success in rural nursing homes
On a sunny afternoon, Guo Jiujun, 85, weeded with a hoe in the vegetable garden while several meters away in a two-story building people with gray hair played cards or watched TV, talking and laughing.
The leisure activities and various entertainment rooms might feel like a recreation center in a modern city. But the nearby cornfield shows it is certainly set in a rural area.
It is the first of a new type of nursing home in Qiantun village in Hebei province. Built in 2008, its way of taking care of the elderly was praised in 2011 by Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo, who said the approach should be used in more rural areas in China.
In 2012, Feixiang county had 44,000 residents aged 60 and older, 31 percent of them living alone because they had no children at home or spouse.
Many are still in good shape like Guo, but they still face risks if they live alone, said Cai Qingyang, chief of Qiantun village.
But they cannot afford the expenses or are unwilling to live in nursing homes, so they tried a new model — renting some rooms for them to live together.
“It turned out that they preferred to live here, though it was not comfortable compared to their own homes,” Cai said.
But it does provide a better environment with air conditioning and even fitness equipment. They can still grow vegetables or flowers in the garden.
The biggest benefit, however, is that they have company.
“I like to chat and feel warm living with others,” Guo said, adding that they usually share food and stories from the past.
Cai Wu’e, 73, from the same village, also enjoys living together with her friends. She began to make shoes in her abundant leisure time, which she gave to others in need.
“We need to take care of each other,” she said.
rough years of development, Feixiang county has improved on the model, even making it a national pilot in rural nursing home reform.
Guo just needs to bring his own food and that’s all. He can live in the room free of charge with the bed and other necessary furniture donated by others.
In addition, the county government will subsidize Guo and every single resident in this type of nursing home with 350 yuan ($56) a year.
Though we spend more for this nursing home, we also get subsidies from the county, which eases our financial burden.” CAI QINGYANG CHIEF OF QIANTUN VILLAGE
The village pays for electricity, water and other charges that average about 2,000 yuan annually.
“Though we spend more for this nursing home, we also get subsidies from the county, which eases our financial burden,” said Cai, the village chief, adding that the rural villages usually have limited revenues, which may be a big problem for others to follow their example.
According to regulations released by the county government, every nursing home will get a maximum subsidy of 100,000 yuan.
With encouragement from the county as well as provincial and central governments, the number of the new rural nursing homes expanded quickly.
By the end of July 2012, all villages in Feixiang county had their own nursing homes 249 in total providing for all the elderly in need.
Hebei has also released a plan to promote the initiative in other rural areas.
Wang Baozhen, deputy director of the civil affairs department in Hebei, said more than half of counties and villages in the rural areas of the province now have such nursing homes allowing seniors to live together with the necessary support from governments.
“I have filed proposals with the range of governments to give more financial support,” he said, adding that as a senior citizen he understands the feeling of living alone.
Though in this model the elderly help each other, reducing the expense of hiring doctors and nurses, the homes also attract doctors who serve as volunteers.
Cai, the village chief, said a medical team lives inside with the elderly.
“Many teams from other provinces have visited our nursing homes, learning from us,” he said. “I hope there will be more for the rural elderly.”
After an hour of weeding, Guo watered his vegetables, a little tired but smiling. Remembering his roommate likes fresh vegetables, he carried some as he headed to their room.
Seniors cook at an elderly care center in Feixiang county in Handan, Hebei province.