Taking care of the elderly: The development of Shanghai's senior service
By Liu Cheng, Shanghai Xuhui District People's Government
(Translated by Cindy Wang)
     Shanghai is China's second most populated city, with a registered population of 13.5 million people. (There is an additional 3.5 million people who physically reside in Shanghai, but for administrative purposes are not counted as part of the Shanghai population.) Of the registered population, 2.6 million people are over 60 years old. They constitute 19.28 percent of the total population. Of the 2.6 million, 2 million are over 65 and 400,000 are over 80 years old. Respectively, this constitutes 14.87 percent and 3.01 percent of the total population. Shanghai has China?s fastest growing aging population. According to calculations, by 2025, Shanghai's senior population will have reached 33.3 percent of Shanghai's total population.
A young volunteer trims hair of seniors at a center.
Senior Care 
     
In order to fulfill the needs of the growing senior population, the government has invested capital in building senior welfare centers, senior community centers, and senior apartments. The government developed the plan "Expanding Social Welfare Programs," providing funding and tax incentives so that private parties will be encouraged to provide senior daycare and health care. Right now, Shanghai has 439 senior care agencies and with the capacity of enrolling 40,136 seniors; three chronic mental health hospitals with the capacity of 2,500; and 83 day care agencies with the capacity of 1,614 seniors. The average cost for a senior care center is around 700-2000 RMB per month (about $92-$250 USD) and has to be provided by the senior him/herself or the family. For people with financial difficulties, above certain age, or recognized to have made special contributions to the society, the government provides financial assistance. With the growth of urban economy, there are more nuclear families in Shanghai. Because of the limited size of new living quarters in urban areas, Shanghai now has more seniors who do not live with their children. According to statistics, Shanghai has 7.1 million seniors who do not live with their children. Of these seniors, 1.66 million live alone.       With the rising cost of Shanghai's real estate and hard-to-come-by building sites, the solution of building more senior-targeted facilities will not supply the rising demand of senior care. Because of this, the Shanghai People'sGovernment started a service called "Senior Care At Home" in 2003. The program provides seniors with a community-oriented nursing care. That way, seniors who do not live with their children are serviced and taken care of by their communities. The objective of this service is to let seniors remain in a place where they are most comfortable and receive service from their community and family through well trained service specialists. Around 10,000 service specialists have already been trained under this program providing 20,000 seniors with care, ranging from meals delivery, laundry assistance, bath, massages, daily care, and accompaniment to the hospital.
Community-based cultural activities
     
In 2002, the government rolled out the "Starlight Plan," with the purpose of building community-based senior recreational centers. These centers have gyms, Internet cafes,  libraries, dance halls, and home entertainment systems. Parks, schools, and other spaces are also made available to seniors for free. This allows seniors to participate in events for entertainment, education, health, and interpersonal communications. A group of volunteers teach dancing, singing, computer skills, arts, crafts, and other classes. The seniors form small groups focused on topics of their interest. Their lives are enlightened because of these classes.
Senior volunteers
     
Seniors are a precious resource to the community. In Shanghai, many seniors are still very active after their retirement and want to give back to their society. They help Resident Committees mediate on community disputes, organize recreational classes, keep the community safe, and promote a clean community environment.
      In 2004, the government started a "Silver Aging Action" which recruits seniors who have special skills and are of good health to volunteer in less economically developed western parts of China. Most of these volunteers are retired doctors, nurses, teachers, and technicians. They provide sanitary care, education, and technology service.
      To be sure, China's senior care is still developing. In recent years, the government has worked with other countries to import a series of models for senior care and senior service. When faced with the trials of an aging population, senior service became a focus for the government and society. Government and society actively pursued efficient means of creating senior service. In a world where the aging population is a universal problem, Shanghai's senior service care model can be an inspiration to people.
Seniors in a colorful, rhythmical exercise number
Author in Madison, Wis.
Senior community arts group
January '06 preview
Learning computers