Pri­vate re­tire­ment homes ap­peal to pen­sion­ers

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By YUAN ZHOU and MA SI in Bei­jing

Tra­di­tion­ally, el­derly Chi­nese pre­fer to age in place, or live in their own home and com­mu­nity, cared for by chil­dren or other rel­a­tives.

But a chang­ing China is mak­ing that more dif­fi­cult.

Re­tired pro­fes­sor Hu Qingy­ing, 85, who lives alone, tried to main­tain that tra­di­tion with her fam­ily by hav­ing cam­eras in­stalled in her home so she could be mon­i­tored by her daugh­ter, Cathy Liu — who is about 9,000 kilo­me­ters away in San Fran­cisco.

“I know she cares about me and wants to check in on me now and then,” said Hu, of the nanny cam-like de­vices in­stalled in her Bei­jing home. “But it felt re­ally weird. Even when I went to the bath­room, I knew there was a cam­era on.”

Six months ago, after try­ing the cam­eras for nearly a year, Hu de­cided to move into a new, high-end sub­ur­ban re­tire­ment com­mu­nity. The Yanda Golden Age Health Nurs­ing Cen­ter charges 7,000 yuan ($1,035) a month to rent a fully fur­nished two-bed­room apart­ment with ba­sic care, in­clud­ing a nurse call but­ton. It is in Yan­jiao, a bed­room com­mu­nity just out­side Bei­jing, in He­bei prov­ince.

The cen­ter has a va­ri­ety of ameni­ties like a swim­ming pool and a gy­mand ishometo 1,600 re­tirees. Most res­i­dents held po­si­tions of some re­spon­si­bil­ity dur­ing their work­ing years. Among them are for­mer pro­fes­sors, diplomats anda vice min­is­ter. At anaver­age age of 82, 30 per­cent have chil­dren who live abroad.

“Our first-phase devel­op­ment, cost­ing 2 bil­lion yuan, has full oc­cu­pancy,” said Cui Kai, deputy gen­eral man­ager of the re­tire­ment com­mu­nity. The de­vel­oper, Yanda Group, is pour­ing 3.2 bil­lion yuan into the sec­ond phase. When fin­ished in 2018, it will add 8,000 beds, bring­ing the to­tal to more than 10,000.

Cui said he’s in­trigued by the over­whelm­ing re­sponse. His staff pro­vides tours of the site to some 300 to 400 se­nior vis­i­tors a week.

The com­mu­nity was orig­i­nally planned to house for­eign re­tirees and Chi­nese who re­turned from over­seas, with apart­ments of Amer­i­can, Euro­pean and South­east Asian styles for them to choose from, Cui said.

“But we soon changed our mind, be­cause we found visa re­quire­ments and do­mes­tic med­i­cal care con­di­tions were ma­jor ob­sta­cles,” he said.

To the de­vel­oper’s re­lief, re­tirees from the cap­i­tal city soon filled the gap, pay­ing 5,000 yuan to 13,000 yuan — de­pend­ing on the size of the apart­ment and the level of care that a res­i­dent needs. “We’re sur­prised to find that most res­i­dents want a twobed­room apart­ment, even though they live alone,” Cui said, not­ing that they con­sider their new res­i­dence more like home than a nurs­ing home.

Help­ing ex­plain how all this is be­ing paid for, el­derly care re­searchers in Bei­jing found that al­most all lo­cal se­niors have pen­sions. Among cou­ples, 23 per­cent re­ceive more than 8,000 yuan or more a month, while 65 per­cent of sin­gle se­niors col­lect 3,000 to 5,999 a month.

Also, in a city known for soar­ing hous­ing prices, 81.8 per­cent of lo­cal se­niors own their own homes, with 7.7 per­cent hav­ing more than one, which can also help sup­port them in their later years if they sell or rent out their prop­erty, the re­searchers said in their re­cently pub­lished Blue Book of El­derly Care as an In­dus­try in Bei­jing.

By the end of last year, Bei­jing had 2.2 mil­lion res­i­dents aged 65 or above, about 10.3 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. They are ex­pected to dou­ble in 2020, of­fi­cial es­ti­mates said.

Bei­jing has an­tic­i­pated 4 per­cent of all lo­cal se­niors, or 160,000, will spend their twi­lightyears in nurs­ing homes by 2020. The ma­jor­ity will be taken care of by their fam­i­lies or com­mu­nity el­der­care ser­vices.

But the lack of ad­e­quate care­giver sup­port and med­i­cal ser­vices have en­cour­aged many se­niors with suf­fi­cient eco­nomic means to find al­ter­na­tives to ward-like set­tings in tra­di­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

Last year, Qian Liqun, 76, a renowned scholar and pro­fes­sor at Pek­ing Univer­sity, caused a small stir after he and his wife made the un­con­ven­tional move of sell­ing their house in western Bei­jing and mov­ing into an el­der­care com­mu­nity. Their 100square-me­ter apart­ment, ameni­ties and ser­vices cost 20,000 yuan a month at the tran­quil Taikang Com­mu­nity, tucked away in the hills of Bei­jing’s north­ern sub­urbs.

Qian said he now can con­cen­trate on writ­ing and read­ing, with­out wor­ry­ing about house­work and cook­ing.

For most well-off res­i­dents, be­ing close to med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties is a top con­sid­er­a­tion.

Gold­enHeights, a high-end re­tire­ment com­mu­nity in down­town Bei­jing, prides it­self on hav­ing a clinic open to both its res­i­dents and their neigh­bors. Its apart­ments, in­clud­ing a ba­sic level of care, start at more than 10,000 yuan amon­th­due to its “med­i­cal care and nurs­ing” model and prime lo­ca­tion.

The Yanda re­tire­ment com­mu­nity, where Hu lives, has its own modern, pri­vate hos­pi­tal but charges lower rates mostly be­cause it is out­side Bei­jing’s mu­nic­i­pal bor­ders.

As health­care ben­e­fits vary be­tween ju­ris­dic­tions, those who live there but have their of­fi­cial res­i­dency in Bei­jing have to pay out of pocket and get re­im­bursed later in the cap­i­tal, which has been a con­cern for se­niors.

Cui, the vice pres­i­dent, said the lo­cal gov­ern­ments have been work­ing to solve the prob­lem, which could help lure more se­niors to his com­mu­nity from Bei­jing.

While lower prices mean it takes longer to re­coup the to­tal in­vest­ment, the project is al­ready prof­itable and the fu­ture looks good be­cause of plen­ti­ful de­mand, he said.

ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Fan Xiaomei, 70, a re­tired of­fi­cial of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, plays pool at the Yanda Golden Age Health Nurs­ing Cen­ter in Yan­jiao, Hebe prov­ince, which is just out­side Bei­jing.

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