Com­pe­ti­tion and chaos

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COVERSTORY - By ZHENG JINRAN and HE DAN

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.

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