Waves of laughter, giggles and cheers -- sounds many would not expect in nursing homes -- echo in the halls of a sanatorium for the elderly in the city of Yinchuan, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
The Jinseyangguang Nursing Home, which means golden sunshine in Chinese, is not a typical senior care center as it pairs the very old with the very young, with its kindergarten inside the nursing home.
At 3:20 p.m. Monday to Friday, children and residents come together in a variety of planned activities and "Plants vs Zombies" is the most popular one these days, according to Hao Qianshuai, head of Jinseyangguang's nursing department.
"Young staff wearing plastic buckets take the role of zombies while kids have peashooters with ping pong balls as their 'bullets,'" Hao said.
More than 20 older adults aged between 79 and 100 sit in the spacious bright hall to share the happiness of the interesting game, he added.
Competitive activities are also well-received among the elderly, such as catching ping-pong balls with chopsticks and singing contests, with applauses and cheers falling on the winners.
"Elderly people are like children who want to be praised. It's not enough to focus on their food and living facilities; their spiritual needs should also be properly addressed," Hao said.
The nursing home was opened in March by Hao Baozheng, who had been engaged in preschool education for more than 10 years. To make the sanatorium more lively, Hao took kids from his kindergarten to the nursing home and has designed a range of weekly activities that can meet the needs of both the young and the old.
It was a rough start, Hao said. Some kids were noisy and some were not very close to the aged. "But as they get more familiar with each other, everything gets along better and things run more smoothly."
"It's fun and interesting to get up every morning and see the kids doing exercises downstairs and hear the pitter-patter of their little feet," said Han Shufen, a 79-year old resident.
According to Hao, parents of the kindergartners are very supportive of such activities.
"Many parents have even come to participate themselves," Hao said.
In recent years, China's aging population has continued to rise, with about 249.5 million now aged 60 or above by the end of last year, representing 17.9 percent of the country's total population, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
To ensure more senior citizens spend their twilight years in comfort, China has issued a series of policies and measures to expand the supply of elderly care services, develop community-based and home-based elderly care and encourage integrated care with medical services.
Local governments have also seen achievements in the development of new ways of elderly care, including the model of kindergarten plus nursing home.
"The old can learn new things from the kindergarteners and the kids can listen to interesting stories from the aged," Hao said.
"Everyone will be old eventually and elderly care institutions should think more about ways to increase the sense of happiness of their senior citizens," he added.