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August 4, 2009

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Elderly home alone become center of attention

A CENTER based in Pudong New Area has initiated a scheme for elderly people living alone that will provide them with company, safety in numbers and some extra income.

The Companion Group is dedicated to matching two to three elderly people living alone in the same district to resettle together in one of their apartments, while leasing out the other residences.

More than 10 senior citizens in the city have applied for the service but most of them are living in different districts. The center is working hard to attract more applicants.

"We will match seniors of similar health conditions and hobbies," said the center founder Yang Lei, a 20-something woman. "Professional care workers will be sent to help take care of them."

Rent from the leased houses will be shared by the elderly people and can be partly used to pay for the care workers.

Yang worked at service provider Care UK for three years when she studied in a British university and found that apartment-sharing was popular with the elderly there.

She opened her group in February after a one-year market study.

Shanghai has more than 3 million registered residents aged 60 and above, nearly 22 percent of the city's population. By 2020, the proportion is expected to rise to about 34 percent.

"The center will complement the current types of care provided for the elderly," Yang said.

Senior rest homes are usually located in suburban districts, inconvenient for family members to visit, she said.

Home visits by nursing professionals are expensive and usually scarce during festivals and holidays.

The government-subsidized home-care service has strict limits for the elderly who must be aged over 80 and unable to take care of themselves, according to Yang.

The number of community day-care centers was also limited, she said.

"It has taken some time for us to be accepted," Yang said.

The Companion Group is now working with several community day-care centers to provide service and promote the new style of care.


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