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March 26, 2010

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Baby boomers dominate oldster ranks

CHINA'S first baby-boom generation is starting to become a booming generation of senior citizens.

They'll quickly become the main group of seniors in Shanghai, creating new variations on senior-citizen lifestyles, affecting everything from daily care to travel, the Shanghai Research Center on Aging said yesterday.

Seniors in the age group 60 to 69 are increasing much faster than seniors of other groups, the center said.

Last year, the number of people aged 60 to 69 rose around 132,300 compared with 2008. In contrast, those 80 or older increased around 32,100, according to the center.

The 60-to-69 group constitutes nearly 49 percent of all the city's seniors above the age 60.

"The percentage will rise steadily for the next five years," said Yin Zhigang, deputy director of the center.

Officials noted that people turning 60 were born during the first baby-boom period - shortly after 1949, when the People's Republic of China was established.

Back then, the central government encouraged people to give birth to as many as children they could, believing that a larger population would boost productivity. Many families had more than seven children.

Now there aren't enough young people to take care of them all.

"The group of people will face a problem in that they will have to live in a senior-only family or on their own," Yin said, "and they are also among the first group in the country affected by the one-child policy."

The group is not as traditional as its parents' generation. And it enjoys better economic circumstances than previous generations of other seniors.

Unlike those earlier generations, these "younger" seniors might be willing to leave their neighborhoods and towns, and choose to stay in other provinces for part of a year.

"For example, they can spend their winter time in southern China's Hainan Province," said Yin.

"Or they can choose to stay in surrounding provinces for several weeks every year."

According to the center, up to the end of last year, the city had about 3.15 million seniors over age 60 - or 22.5 percent of the city's registered population.

By 2015, the number of seniors is expected to increase to 4 million and make up 30 percent of the population.

To support seniors' life, the city plans this year to increase rest-home beds and community canteens.


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