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September 23, 2013

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Elderly prefer to be cared for at home

Nearly 70 percent of elderly people in Shanghai would prefer their children to take care of them at home rather than rely on community services, according to a Shanghai Statistics Bureau survey.

Just over 21 percent would favor care programs provided by the community, such as housekeeping and meal deliveries at home or in community-based facilities

But only 11.1 percent were willing to spend rest of their lives in nursing homes.

The bureau questioned 2,248 people aged between 60 and 79 throughout the city for its survey.

It found that up to 87.5 percent of those questioned were still of the traditional opinion that their children should take care of them. This was particularly the case in rural areas. 

But the survey noted a trend toward a Western-style option that would relieve the  burden placed on their children.

About 73.1 percent said they would mortgage their house in return for pensions. Under such a scheme, they could still live in their houses until their death, when ownership would go to banks or other financial institutions.

But the report said the idea, which the State Council promoted in a document issued on September 13, had met with a mixed response, especially among people whose parents have property and who fear losing their inheritance.

Real estate rules

The idea challenges traditional Chinese beliefs that children have a duty to support their parents and, in return, they can inherit their properties.

It is not a new one. Shanghai, together with Beijing and Guangzhou, tested the program in 2003, but it didn’t fare well, not least because of China’s real estate rules.

Elderly people in rural areas, for example, are banned from selling their properties and so can’t take part in the scheme.

Another key barrier is China’s 70-year leasehold for real estate. According to real estate law, private property can be leased for just 70 years. Though the law also stipulates the leasehold can be extended, the cost is not specified.

The volatility of the property market also adds to financial institutions’ hesitation over the scheme as they worry that a drop in prices would undermine their interests.

Despite such problems, some Shanghai banks are promoting the scheme.

Details of how it will work this time are expected to be issued in the first quarter of next year, according to the State Council.

Faced with a rapidly aging society, Shanghai has vowed to improve its elderly care network.

The number of professional nursing institutions for the elderly has seen an increase from 417 to 631 in the 10 years from 2002. As for community facilities, there were 231 in 2012, with 32,000 workers.

A major advance in the next stage of improvement would concern these community workers. Most are over the age of 50 and in need of training, the report said.



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