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Better homes for Shanghai's seniors

HABITAT for Humanity China has spent the last 10 years helping house more than 2,000 families in mainly poor rural areas.

But for the first time it is taking its unique approach to Shanghai's urban environment to assist the city's growing elderly population.

In an innovative partnership with the Shanghai Senior Citizens Foundation, Habitat for Humanity China has launched a pilot project to renovate 20 homes for poor senior citizens in the city.

The two organizations agreed to renovate the homes by the end of summer 2011.

Renovations will focus on improving the health and safety of homes, including redoing electrical wiring, installing anti-slip flooring and handrails and improving handicapped accessibility of bathrooms.

The organizations will look to expand the project in the latter part of 2011.

Speaking at the signing ceremony on Tuesday, Shanghai People's Congress Vice Chairman and Shanghai Senior Citizens Foundation President Hu Wei said he hoped the project would encourage assistance from a range of areas to improve the lives of the city's more than 3 million senior citizens.

"We look forward to the support of organizations and concerned people everywhere to help improve our efforts, and provide greater care and help to Shanghai's senior citizens," Hu says.

"We hope to expand our joint efforts in the near future."

The Shanghai Age-Friendly Housing Renovation Project will complement other Shanghai Senior Citizens Foundation programs.

These include organizing funding for heart and cataract operations and organizing trips and activities, including visiting Shanghai World Expo.

The Shanghai Senior Citizens Foundation is publicly funded and its supervising government agency is the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

The foundation has raised more than 130 million yuan (US$19.43 million) and distributed more than 40 million yuan to charitable programs, benefiting 100,000 senior citizens.

Also at the signing was Habitat for Humanity China Chairman Peter Witton, who said the organization's first foray into China offered an opportunity to increase the availability of age-friendly housing in a city with a rapidly increasing elderly population.

"We hope that through this project, we can help develop effective models for expanding access to age-friendly housing in Shanghai," Witton says.

In addition to the upcoming renovation project in Shanghai, Habitat for Humanity China programs in the Shanghai area include poverty housing alleviation work in Pinghu County, Zhejiang Province.

Homes are built by volunteers. Partner families who will live in the homes also contribute to improving their own lives.

Founded in 1976, the global organization operates in dozens of countries around the world and has built or improved more than 400,000 houses, providing some 2 million people with a home.

Habitat for Humanity China began operations on the Chinese mainland in 2000. It now has offices in Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Sichuan, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

During the last decade, Habitat for Humanity China has built and rehabilitated more than 2,000 homes to meet shelter needs after disasters, for minority communities, and for families affected by disability.

In southwestern China, Habitat for Humanity has developed a number of projects in recent years including assisting victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Witton says the organization plans to further extend its operations to other provinces surrounding Shanghai in 2011.

It established a project office in Shanghai this year and its` mission is to address affordable housing needs in eastern China and supporting poverty housing alleviation efforts in southwestern China.

Habitat for Humanity China is always looking for volunteers both with technical skills and for peop le who just want to lend a hand.

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