Ex-diplo­mat en­joys his own space in re­tire­ment

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - — YUAN ZHOU AND MA SI

Chen Pin­gling, 81, an ex-ca­reer diplo­mat with ap­point­ments in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal coun­selor to Moscow, is an ex­am­ple of the kind of elite se­nior pop­u­la­tion that the Yanda re­tire­ment com­mu­nity hopes to at­tract and re­tain as res­i­dents. Chen spent his early re­tire­ment years in his own home. After his wife died, he moved to one of the best public nurs­ing homes in Bei­jing. For the past five years, he has lived in a pri­vate re­tire­ment com­mu­nity in a 66-square-me­ter, one-bed­room apart­ment on the edge of Bei­jing. He has no plans to move again.

Chen spoke re­cently to China Daily about his life and re­tire­ment. The fol­low­ing are edited ex­cerpts:

Why do you pre­fer a pri­vate nurs­ing home in­stead of a public one?

When I was ac­cepted by a well-known wel­fare in­sti­tu­tion in 2010, I was told that as many as 4,000 peo­ple were wait­ing for a bed there. But soon, I re­al­izedmy room was like a hos­pi­tal ward and it had no pri­vacy. Nurses could come in at any­time to check on you. In sum­mer­time, the door was left open and there was only a cur­tain hung on the frame. I couldn’t even lis­ten toWestern clas­sics be­cause I didn’t want to dis­turb others.

Then I be­came one of the first res­i­dents in Yanda after I saw the apart­ment. It was like my own home, with pri­vacy.

How’s your life like here?

I have­meals at the can­teen, which serves small por­tions of food for se­niors. I don’t eat much. For din­ner, I eat por­ridge with pick­les that I take away

from the break­fast.

At night, I’ll have milk that is warmed in the mi­crowave oven in the kitchen and then go to bed withmy fa­vorite mu­si­cal num­bers on.

There are many ac­tiv­i­ties for res­i­dents. I’man ac­tive mem­ber of the choir. I’ve taught other mem­bers to sing Rus­sian oldies like Oy, The Kalina is Bloom­ing, Ka­tusha and Far, Far Away.

I’ve writ­ten and pub­lished books on pol­i­tics and cul­ture about East­ern Europe. Some­times, young au­thors ask for my com­ments or a pref­ace for their works on the topic.

If you want to go back to Bei­jing to visit friends, they have reg­u­lar shut­tle-buses to down­town ar­eas with nurses tag­ging along.

Have you vis­ited any for­eign nurs­ing homes?

I went to col­lege in Prague in the early 1950s, ma­jor­ing in Czech his­tory. I have friends there in­clud­ing a rich art col­lec­tor and for­mer diplo­mat to China who was in the best nurs­ing home in Prague. I think my apart­ment is nicer than his in terms of fur­nish­ings and ameni­ties.

What about the costs?

I pay 4,500 yuan ($666) per month for the apart­ment and ser­vices. The meals cost 10 to 20 yuan each. My pen­sion of 8,500 yuan a month is more than enough for the ex­penses.

Are there any ar­eas where the provider can im­prove?

Get­ting re­im­bursed for med­i­cal bills re­mains a big prob­lem for res­i­dents here. We have full health cov­er­age in Bei­jing, but still have to pay up front at the hos­pi­tal.

Do you have any plans to move?

No. I’m com­fort­able here. They of­fer all-in-one ser­vices from re­tire­ment to grave. When you’re healthy, you stay in the self-help area. When you’re not, you stay in a par­tial-help or full help area. The hos­pi­tal is just a few min­utes away by foot. I’ve heard sto­ries of res­i­dents whose lives were saved by the doc­tors at the hos­pi­tal. They might not have been able to make it if they’d stayed in their own homes.


Chen Pin­gling, an 81-year-old re­tired diplo­mat, likes his 66square-me­ter pri­vate apart­ment.

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