China
Young Chinese strike gold in caring for silver-haired retirees
  ·  2024-02-22  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency

A bathing assistant serves a senior resident at her home in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province, on June 17 (XINHUA)

With the portable bathtub assembled, three bathing assistants filled the tub with water, tested the water temperature, and spread the non-slip mats.

The 75-year-old man waiting to be bathed is a resident of Shenyang, the capital city of northeast China's Liaoning Province. He has been bedridden for 10 years due to cerebral thrombosis.

They measured the old man's blood pressure before undressing him under the cover of a soft towel. After finishing all the prep work, they lifted the elderly man with a leather stretcher and slowly placed him into the tub.

The simple act of taking a bath can be challenging and risky for the elderly and the disabled people, which has led to the rise of bath aid services, said Wu Ying, 35, a bathing assistant in Shenyang.

Wu is among an increasing number of young people who are entering the elderly care industry. According to the China civil affairs' statistical yearbooks (2019-2022), the number of employees in old-age care facilities below the age 35 has seen an increase.

Official data showed that China's population aged 60 and above had reached 297 million by the end of 2023, accounting for 21.1 percent of the country's total population.

Against the backdrop of a rapidly aging society, China has recently released a guideline to strengthen the "silver economy," which incorporates economic activities that cater to senior citizens with tailored products and services. This also helps to prepare the country for the challenges of an aging population.

The guideline, issued by the General Office of the State Council, is China's first policy guideline regarding the silver economy. Several ministries and departments have followed up by introducing multi-faceted measures to improve the well-being of the silver-haired generation.

Wu was pleased to see that market demand for bath aid services has swelled. They had provided the service to nearly 100 senior customers in just half a month in the lead-up to the Spring Festival this year.

A giant and expanding old-age care market has created job opportunities for younger generations. Across China, localities are scrambling to improve their old-age care systems and multiply public services that are related to elderly care.

In east China's Jiangsu Province, for instance, 2,235 nursing homes are offering 408,000 beds to the elderly population. The province has also established 18,000 community elderly care service centers and 8,145 elderly catering centers. In addition, it has offered government-procured door-to-door services to 3.3 million senior citizens.

Developing a silver economy serves the purposes of addressing the pressing needs of the elderly population today, providing more entrepreneurial and employment opportunities to the younger generation, and laying the groundwork for embracing an older society in the future, said Dang Junwu, deputy head of the China Research Center on Aging.

In the Sujiatun District of Shenyang, 63-year-old Wang Yingqiu has been struggling with simple tasks like getting out of bed due to a lumbar disc herniation, all while living alone.

However, the inconvenience posed by such simple tasks was alleviated after her apartment went through an elderly-oriented remodeling project, during which her bed was replaced with a nursing bed.

"By pulling the lever, I can adjust the bed to pull myself up," said Wang. "It has made a big difference in my life." Her entire 40-square-meter apartment was remodeled to cater to her specific needs.

The designer responsible for the remodeling is Sun Tong, a woman born in 1992 and a former kindergarten teacher. "Compared to practitioners from older generations in the elderly care industry, young practitioners are well-trained in elderly care skills, geriatric psychology, among other specialties, and are therefore more equipped for the task," said Sun.

In addition to taking on the role of professional caretakers, young people are also bringing vigor to the day-to-day life of the elderly. In the old-age service center in Yingkou City, Liaoning Province, over 100 staff members, the majority being youngsters in their 20s and 30s, spent their Spring Festival holiday offering company to 382 senior residents in the center.

The tech-savvy young staffers introduced the elderly residents to the charm of short videos, recording their lives and sharing the videos on social media platforms.

"Grandpas and grannies were all energized once they had the opportunity to take part in video shooting," said Chen Gang, director of the center. "During the video shooting, the infectious vitality of the young people infused the elderly with a stronger desire to express themselves, move around, crave beauty and anticipate a better life."

"This year is my third year doing this job, and residents here affectionately call me 'granddaughter' or 'little chubby girl' when they see me. Seeing them happy brings a joy to my heart," the 23-year-old staffer Sun Yuxin said with a big grin on her face.

"While young people add youthful vitality to the lives of the elderly, the growing aging population provides more employment options for them," said Zhang Yan, director of the sociology research institute of the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.

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