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Addressing Elderly Poverty in China

Elderly Poverty in China
China has one of the largest elderly populations in the world. About 128 million people in China are over the age of 60. By the year 2050, there will be approximately 400 million people over the age of 60. Elderly poverty in China is a major concern, as 22.9% of the elderly population lives below the poverty line. This poses health concerns as well since there is a strong correlation between health and wealth. Of the elderly population, 26.2% of those living in poverty needed assistance with everyday activities compared to 22.7% of those above the poverty line. Fortunately, China has recognized a need to develop regulations and programs to help the elderly.

Caring for the Elderly

Elderly poverty in China is due in part to the struggles they face in caring for their own needs. Traditionally, the elderly would live with one of their children. It was the child’s duty to care for their elderly parents and make sure their needs were met. However, today children are more frequently moving out of their homes, leaving their parents to live alone. Family-based care is becoming impractical in China, as middle-aged children do not have the time to take care of their parents. More than 23% of China’s elderly population are now living alone.

The number of homes for the elderly is not enough to support the population. China currently has 289 pension homes that can only house 9,924 people. This only accounts for 0.6% of China’s population over 60. The rest of the population must fend for themselves when it comes to healthcare and housing.

Thankfully, regulations have been put in place to encourage private and foreign investment in homes for the elderly. The National Convention on Aging along with other departments has created a Five-Year Plan to increase access to healthcare and housing to the elderly population in an effort to solve elderly poverty in China.

China’s Five-Year-Plan

The first part of the plan includes allocating more beds for the elderly in hospitals. The number of beds in public hospitals and care agencies for the elderly will account for 50% of the total capacity by 2020. In addition, 35% of top-tier hospitals will have geriatric care departments. Healthcare and pension plans will be improved as well, with 90% of the population covered by basic pension insurance and 95% covered by basic health insurance.

Since 2019, wait times for the elderly to get into a nursing home has significantly decreased. Wait times before the plan could be as long as 20 years. Now, the elderly can be put on a waiting list and enter a private nursing home within one month.  The rise of private nursing homes in 2019 stemmed from multiple municipalities announcing nursing homes would no longer have to obtain permits. The government has also incentivized institutions to provide homes for the elderly. Community centers are granted a reduction in utilities and increased subsidies if they provide care to the elderly.

Hopefully, the plan will continue to alleviate the burden the elderly have of finding housing and care in China. Moving forward, it is essential that the government continues to prioritize the eradication of elderly poverty in China.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr