China to Shift Focus to Aging in Place
Yan, Wang Xiao, Aging Today
How remote and forbidding China can seem in daily news reports ranging from air pollution in the lungs of Olympic athletes to rubble surrounding earthquake victims. Yet, nothing has brought home more just how much our peoples share of the modern human condition than a visit to the American Society on Aging offices early this year by Wang Xiao Yan, director of the Community Alliance in Beijing.
Community Alliance is an independent, grassroots nonprofit organization founded in 2006 to serve China's 153 million people ages 60 and older. The group's mission statement says, "We strive to ensure social justice and welfare for the elderly, especially elder women and those who are among the most disadvantagedin communities."
The similarities between the goals of professionals and advocates for elders in the United States and China became clear recently when Wang, in her capacity as editor in chief of her organization 's Community Alliance magazine, sent us the publication's June 2008 issue, which was devoted to "Ageing in Place" (using the international spelling). What follows, reprinted with Wang's permission, is her introductory column from that issue. If much of its content sounds eerily familiar to American health and service providers, don't be surprised if your inner ear seems to be playing "It's a Small World, After All."
In 2008, at the highest levels of the Chinese government, representatives of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference had a critical discussion on the national welfare of the elderly. From these discussions, China's leaders put forward a new nationwide proposal to shift from the past model of family responsibility for eldercare to create a new community-based model for aging in place with the establishment of new community-based elder services.
Also earlier this year, the Ministry of Civil Affairs along with 10 other ministries jointly released their report titled Views on a Comprehensive Strategy for Strengthening and Improving Community Services for Ageing in Place. China's population is undergoing a period of accelerated aging that must be addressed.
It is estimated that by 2020 the elderly population in China will reach 248 million, and by 2051 the number will reach 437 million, making up 31 % of the country's total population. The question of how to deal with the nation's aging population and address the welfare of the elderly has been brought to the forefront. It is estimated that 85% of China's elders rely on family support and care. This is in part due to the country's large population, organizations and service for elders not being mature, and limited financial resources for services. It also follows in the tradition of Chinese culture and customs, and because Chinese elders carry a strong sense of family and belonging.
The newly discussed communitybased system for eldercare is a model in which elders can continue to live at home and be provided additional support from locally available community services and institutions. With the rise in the nuclear family and empty-nest families, this new model would not only provide elders living at home with a range of community support services and facilitate their remaining in a familiar and comfortable living environment, but it would also alleviate the pressure on family members to provide care.
China's existing aging-in-place services are primarily family based and often cannot meet the range of needs of the elderly being served. Apart from younger, more able elderly citizens, others age 80 or older, and especially those who are limited in their ability to care for themselves, desperately need services that can be made available by a community-based eldercare system. …