By 2020, 90 percent of Beijing's seniors are expected to remain at home and be cared for by their families, according to a development plan on elder care services released by the city's civil affairs authority on Wednesday.
The number of permanent residents aged 60 and older is predicted to reach 4 million by 2020, compared to 3.2 million at the end of last year, the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau said.
The other 10 percent of seniors, or about 400,000 people, will be cared for by communities or nursing homes, the plan said. Nursing homes in Beijing will receive mostly physically or mentally disabled residents.
The city will encourage the development of elder care facilities and the number of beds at nursing homes is expected to increase by about 50 percent from the current level to 160,000 by 2020, the plan said.
Beijing faces a severe shortage of facilities for nursing and care of the infirm elderly, a problem worsened by the city's quickly aging population, the bureau said. Only 3.4 beds are available for every 100 permanent residents aged 60 or above in Beijing at the end of last year.
At Beijing No 1 Social Welfare House, a popular nursing home in Beijing, the waiting list for an empty bed stretches decades into the future due to a lack of beds and the number of applicants, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Nursing home problems most severe for middle-income seniors
Less than 20 percent of nursing homes in China's major cities are profitable, and homes for middle-income seniors fall far short of what is needed, according to a report released on Thursday, July 16 by the China Research Center on Aging.
The report, which looked at the development of nursing homes, was based on information collected last year from civil affairs authorities and questionnaires submitted by 257 nursing homes in 12 major cities, including Tianjin and Chongqing.
The number of beds provided by various types of nursing homes in China exceeded 5.5 million at the end of last year. That's 26 beds for every 1,000 people 60 years old or above, the report said.
China's population of older people, generally defined as those age 60 and above, has increased rapidly in recent years. The number reached 212 million by the end of last year, encouraging development of elder-care industries.
More government subsidies are needed to encourage the development of nursing homes, said Kong Wei, an official at the China National Committee on Aging.
Of the nursing homes surveyed, 19.4 percent said their business turned a profit. About a third said they had been losing money, while nearly half said their books were balanced.
"In general, it takes longer for investment in nursing homes to see gains, and profit margins in the industry are lower than for many other industries," the report said.
Most nursing homes in China are either low-end－providing only basic food and living necessities, and lacking medical or entertainment facilities－or expensive high-end ones that are well equipped and provide a high standard of service.
Many nursing homes built in recent years are aimed at the high-end market, because they charge more, recover their investment sooner and generate profits more quickly, Kong said.
"Such nursing homes are beyond the financial capacity of most seniors," she said.
Many nursing homes are built far from urban centers, resulting in a high number of empty beds, she said.
The number of beds provided by homes in China is expected to increase to 6.6 million by the end of this year and will reach close to the level of developed countries, said Wu Yushao, director of the China Research Center on Aging.