Elderly people interact with a robot at an elderly care center in Zhengzhou, Henan province, last month. (Photo by Zhang Tao/For China Daily)
Local authorities' offerings to seniors must not be fewer than those listed
Central authorities have published a catalog of care services and cash subsidies to create a safety net targeting the country's fast-expanding elderly population.
The listed items range from stipends for residents aged 80 and older outside their monthly pension benefits, to reimbursements for courses that people take to better care for their elderly relatives who have disabilities.
On the list are also programs that help adapt the home layout to promote physical accessibility, and visits paid to "empty-nest elders "living alone by community workers and volunteers.
The catalog is an appendix to a guideline issued by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet.
The content is subject to change based on new situations, it said. However, the catalog in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) mainly focuses on addressing problems facing families with disabled relatives in old age, as well as those dealing with elders without caregivers.
Local authorities are required to roll out their customized versions based on local conditions, but services on offer must not be fewer than those listed in the central guideline.
Titled "Opinions on Promoting the Construction of a Basic Eldercare Service System", the document defines basic elder care services as those offered by the State directly or indirectly, and are basic, universally accessible, and aim to meet the most bottom-line needs.
"Such public products are the foundation for achieving the outlook that all people have something to rely on in old age," it said.
Building a system of such services is an important step by the central government in addressing the challenges brought about by the fast-aging demographics in a preemptive fashion, and was part of a broader move to curb the regional gap in the distribution of public services, it added. Wealthier provinces in the east usually offer better public services than inland regions.
The directive comes as China races to create an elder care service program that is both universally accessible and sustainable in supporting vast numbers of retirees.
National Bureau of Statistics data showed that China had 280 million people aged 60 and older as of last year, representing about 19 percent of the population.
The guideline also spells out a number of key tasks.
One is to establish a system to survey the health conditions of older residents, and the results need to be recognized across regions. Another is to roll out incentives to encourage property management companies to participate in relevant programs.
As part of the effort to shore up the capacity to provide elder care, the guideline said newly built residential communities must complete a certain number of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities based on their scale, and renovations targeting older communities must take elder care needs into consideration.