Silver economy reshaping biz strategies

2024-05-23 10:38:37China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Tourists pose for photographs at a scenic spot in Wuyuan, Jiangxi province. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Hao Yuling, a 64-year-old retiree in Beijing, had an unforgettable 10-day group trip in September 2003 to five European countries.

After arriving in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, she and her fellow travelers toured a windmill village and stayed at a ship museum hotel, followed by a boat trip to explore the whole city the next day.

Then from Germany, she arrived in Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower, Cathedral of Notre Dame, Louvre Museum and Paris Opera House. Her trip, organized by Beijing-based Hongsong, ended after visiting the other Benelux countries.

"It was unforgettable," she said.

"More importantly, I made friends with my travel companions — from complete strangers at the start to a deep friendship now, making my life richer," she added.

Fang Minghui, vice-president of Hongsong Group, the largest senior-focused service platform for retirees in China, said that compared with other tours, their study/travel services focus on study tours, letting the elderly learn from their sojourns and have more fun.

During the past six months, nearly 10,000 seniors have participated in Hongsong's offline study tours, touring five European countries and 12 Chinese cities.

He Jia, co-founder of Hongsong, said the retirees, part of a growing graying demographic, need more focused care and consideration as official data showed that by the end of last year, the country's population aged 60 and over numbered 296 million, accounting for 21.1 percent of the total population.

By end-2023, there were over 490,000 business entities engaged in the eldercare business in China, focusing on home care, rehabilitation, adult education, leisure and entertainment, said He Zhifang, a researcher from Hunan University of Technology and Business.

However, Fang said, study tour services for seniors face more difficulties, as traditional sightseeing tourism can no longer meet the growing needs of the elderly in the new era.

He Jia said the State Council — the nation's Cabinet — hosted an executive meeting on Jan 5, calling for expanding the silver economy as a key measure to respond to the aging population.

It stressed fully utilizing the role of various business entities and social organizations to better meet the multilevel and diverse needs of seniors.

"At present, eldercare all over the world tends to focus on their physical health, such as accompanying the disabled, but a lack of a sense of value and social support networks was often overlooked," said He.

Take the example of Zhang Yunfeng, an 81-year-old retiree in Beijing, who was the eldest among Hongsong's clients.

Engaged in machine-tool technical work which kept her extremely busy, she also cared for her bedridden husband for six years before her retirement.

As her two sons live far away with their own families, she lives with her grandson, who is also very busy at work and can't arrive home until midnight. During the day, she is the only one at home, and has to make do with a walk in the park.

Hongsong noticed this and interacted with her often over the past three years, making her life more fulfilling, said He.

Another Hongsong co-founder, Li Qiao, said one of the reasons they set up the company in 2020 was to let his mother enjoy a higher quality retirement life, by focusing on social interactions.

"The elderly population is accelerating the development of the silver economy, whose scale has reached some 7 trillion yuan ($979 billion) currently, accounting for about 6 percent of the country's GDP," said He, who has a doctorate from West China Hospital of Sichuan University.

The China Tourism Academy forecasts that by 2025, China's senior population tourism income could surpass 1 trillion yuan, while statistics showed that by 2030, the market size of China's elderly education services could reach 1.2 trillion yuan.

So far, Hongsong has tailor-made online learning, socialization, e-commerce and offline study tours for seniors, said He.

To provide high-quality courses for users, Hongsong has hired over 4,000 lecturers nationwide.

"Our online and offline courses cover hundreds of areas, with a cumulative number of participants exceeding 10 million, and a total number of clicks on courses surpassing 200 million."

Fang said, "The silver economy has vast potential for development," adding that the market size of study tours alone can run up to 2 trillion yuan.

He Jia said that by February, they had set up research and development centers in Beijing; Chongqing; Chengdu, Sichuan province; Hangzhou, Zhejiang province; and Wuhan, Hubei province, and have finished their B+ round of financing.

According to a report by the Institute of Aging of Fudan University, by 2035, the size of China's silver economy will reach 19 trillion yuan, accounting for 28 percent of total consumption and nearly 10 percent of GDP.


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