Legislators urge services in rural areas to reflect nation's demographics

China Daily Updated: 2022-04-12

Legislators urge services in rural areas to reflect nation's demographics.jpeg

Older people play cards at a seniors' center in Jinan, Shandong province, in December. [GUO XULEI/XINHUA]

Rural governments should step up efforts to provide public care services for seniors because the population is aging faster in the countryside than in urban areas, legislators said during the 13th session of the National People's Congress, held last month.

Luo Shenglian, president of Nanchang Hangkong University in Jiangxi province and an NPC deputy, said his research showed that many rural seniors tend to work deep into old age, and the number of empty nesters in the countryside is rising.

He suggested incorporating the establishment of "village level" senior care facilities into local officials' governance assessments.

"More attention should be given to low-income groups, empty nesters and seniors with disabilities by setting up organizations dedicated to addressing their needs or using public funds to purchase services (for them)," he said.

According to the latest national census, released last year, nearly 24 percent of rural residents were age 60 and older in 2020, about 8 percentage points higher than in cities. Meanwhile, official data show that from 2010 to 2020, the number of people in rural areas age 60 and older rose by 8 percentage points, compared with a rise of 4.8 percentage points in the nation's urban areas.

"We cannot have a situation where rural seniors have to chop firewood to cook a meal by themselves," Ou Xiaoli, director of the social development department at the National Development and Reform Commission, told a recent news conference.

Yan Zhi, chairman of Zall Holdings and an NPC deputy, said the construction of elderly care systems in rural areas should be integrated into the national rural vitalization campaign, which is aimed at improving the infrastructure in the countryside and attracting investment and talent.

He added that health risks and loneliness affect a large number of empty nesters in rural areas.

"Because their children are not around, their lives are often monotonous and lack leisure infrastructure and activities," he said.

He suggested allocating funds to set up public facilities so seniors can have access to books, movies and board games. Based on local customs, public courses on tai chi and calligraphy could be offered to meet seniors' needs for social interaction and entertainment.

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