Two female farmers (right) learn knitting skills in a studio in Shulan, Jilin province. ([Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)
China is tackling the challenge of caring for its aging population by learning from Japan's experiences, establishing the first Sino-Japanese "elderly friendly" community in Yixing, Jiangsu province.
A total of 794 apartments and 376 villas have been built in the city to serve the elderly. The project, jointly developed by Yada Senior Living Group, a Beijing-based company, and Japanese company Panasonic, covers 4 square kilometers and is Panasonic's first "Healthy Smart Town" project in China.
Han Kui, president of Yada, said that with its unique facilities and services, the community has been warmly welcomed by Chinese people.
Cutting-edge technologies have been installed in the community, according to Han. For instance, high-tech toilets can collect urine samples and detect a person's body fat and heart rates, and connect that information to a smartphone for analysis.
A smart sleep system automatically adjusts lighting and air conditioning to create a better sleeping environment.
"Our goal at the very beginning of establishing the community was to extend life expectancy in a healthy way by 10 years," Han said. "Apart from government-funded institutions, private institutions should also play a key role in addressing the aging population.
"China's elderly care services system has not developed as early as some other countries. But the process of its aging (population) has developed rapidly due to the structure of its population, thus placing enormous pressure on such a populous country," he said.
Wang Jue, dean of Southeast University's School of Humanities in Nanjing, said that while many countries around the world are facing the problem of an aging population, China has its own characteristics. These include the largest elderly population in the world, the rapid growth of the aging population and huge regional differences, she said.
According to the National Health Commission, by 2035 the population age 60 and above will exceed 400 million, accounting for over 30 percent of China's total population.
At the end of 2021, the population of people age 60 and above in China stood at 267 million, accounting for 18.9 percent of the total population. The population of those age 65 and above surpassed 200 million, accounting for 14.2 percent of the total, it said.
As of 2020, a total of 10 provincial-level regions, including the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning and Sichuan, had 20 percent of their population age 60 and above, according to the commission.
"Japan belongs to the East Asian cultural circle and faced the aging challenge earlier than China. It has a relatively complete social security system and supportive policies for the elderly," said Wang from Southeast University.
"We should learn from the experiences of Japan, which encourages private companies and social institutions to participate in caring for the elderly. We should also learn from Japan and establish social security systems in elderly care, medical care and nursing for the elderly."
She added that China should introduce policies to support elderly employment and housing, and set standards for the elderly care service industry.
Guo Juncontributed to this story.