El­derly de­serve bet­ter care and ser­vices

China Daily - - VIEWS - Mu Guang­zong

In his re­port to the 19th National Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China on Oct 18, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Xi Jin­ping said China will adopt poli­cies that will help fos­ter a so­cial en­vi­ron­ment in which se­nior cit­i­zens are re­spected, cared for and live hap­pily. As part of that ef­fort, se­nior cit­i­zens will re­ceive in­te­grated care and med­i­cal ser­vice, and the pro­grams to pro­vide bet­ter el­derly care will be ex­pe­dited.

Build­ing a fool­proof el­derly care sys­tem is a huge and com­pli­cated project, which should take many fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion such as the Chi­nese tra­di­tion of fil­ial piety, so­cial­ized old-age care, and the var­i­ous types of care needed by se­nior cit­i­zens of dif­fer­ent age groups.

Stud­ies show that “empty nest” se­nior cit­i­zens ac­count for at least 50 per­cent of China’s to­tal el­derly pop­u­la­tion, and the per­cent­age is in­creas­ing. With an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of fam­i­lies hav­ing one child and the flow of mi­grant work­ers into cities, fam­ily and home-based old-age care is no longer pos­si­ble for many.

Healthy and ac­tive se­nior cit­i­zens want to spend their later years in the place they are fa­mil­iar with, and pre­fer home-based care. But the el­derly liv­ing alone in “empty nests” face many in­con­ve­niences and risks. For such se­nior cit­i­zens, the au­thor­i­ties should pro­vide nec­es­sary help and take mea­sures to im­prove com­mu­nity sup­port for them.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Civil Af­fairs, com­mu­nity sup­port for the el­derly cov­ers all the ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties and more than a half of the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. This means there is plenty of room in ru­ral ar­eas to de­velop com­mu­nity sup­port for the aged.

In the given cir­cum­stances, an ideal ar­range­ment would be the el­derly and their grown-up chil­dren liv­ing separately but nearby, so that they can visit each other oc­ca­sion­ally, if not fre­quently. But in re­al­ity, even some peo­ple liv­ing with their el­derly par­ents can­not al­ways take proper care of them, con­sid­er­ing the typ­i­cal “4-2-1” (four grand­par­ents, two par­ents and one child) fam­ily struc­ture in China.

A so­cial­ized old-age sup­port mech­a­nism is, there­fore, called for. The Law on the Pro­tec­tion of the Rights and In­ter­ests of the El­derly ad­vanced a com­pre­hen­sive old-age sup­port mech­a­nism that is based on fam­ily-based oldage sup­port, and re­lies on com­mu­nity and in­sti­tu­tional sup­port for el­derly care.

So­cial­ized old-age sup­port re­flects the di­vi­sion of fam­ily and so­ci­ety in the old-age care sys­tem, in which the fam­ily and so­ci­ety share the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­vid­ing care for the el­derly. So de­vel­op­ing a com­mu­nity-based oldage sup­port mech­a­nism and in­sti­tu­tional el­derly care is the need of the hour.

But the de­vel­op­ment of in­sti­tu­tions for el­derly care faces some prob­lems, the fore­most be­ing the im­bal­ance in sup­ply and de­mand. The Min­istry of Civil Af­fairs says China has more than 28,000 reg­is­tered in­sti­tu­tions for old-age care with about 7 mil­lion beds. How­ever, pub­lic el­derly care in­sti­tu­tions en­joy bet­ter rep­u­ta­tion and their ser­vices are much in de­mand, whereas pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions are gen­er­ally found want­ing when it comes to tak­ing proper care of the el­derly.

The au­thor­i­ties should there­fore deepen sup­ply-side struc­tural re­form of pub­lic old-age sup­port re­sources to both guar­an­tee so­cial se­cu­rity for el­derly sup­port and pro­mote el­derly care in­sti­tu­tions, as well as to im­prove the man­age­ment and ser­vice qual­ity of such in­sti­tu­tions.

Con­sid­er­ing China’s grow­ing el­derly pop­u­la­tion, in­sti­tu­tions pro­vid­ing el­derly care should not only ful­fill their so­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties but also en­sure qual­ity and fair ser­vices, in or­der to safe­guard se­nior cit­i­zens’ rights and in­ter­ests.

In par­tic­u­lar, the old-age sup­port prob­lem can be at­trib­uted to China’s special con­di­tion. For more than three decades, many of the Chi­nese fam­i­lies fol­lowed the fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy, lead­ing to the “4-2-1” fam­ily struc­ture, which in turn weak­ened the tra­di­tional old-age sup­port sys­tem. So it is the obli­ga­tion of the au­thor­i­ties now to take mea­sures to im­prove the so­cial wel­fare sys­tem and sup­port mech­a­nism for the el­derly who, by fol­low­ing the strict fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy, helped re­strict the pop­u­la­tion growth, which was nec­es­sary for China’s fast-paced eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and pros­per­ity. The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at the Pop­u­la­tion Re­search In­sti­tute of Pek­ing Univer­sity.

SHI YU / CHINA DAILY

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