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China turns to age-old solution for rural elderly

Saturday, May 18, 2013 - 02:04

May 19 - A new scheme rolling out in Chinese villages enlists 'young elderly' people to care for the very elderly left behind as young workers rush to the big cities. Max Duncan reports.

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Two years short of 70, Zhang Guosheng is planning to live out his days at this village care home in central China. But in a new scheme to deal with rural China's huge ageing population, he is in fact not yet the cared-for, but still the carer. His charge, 81-year-old Zhang Shouzhi, is near-deaf, immobile, and has no family in the village to care for him. And he's far too poor to afford professional care. This old-age care model began in their small village of Qiantun, and with government backing is set to go nation-wide. (SOUNDBITE)(Mandarin) 68-YEAR-OLD ZHANG GUOSHENG SAYING: "At the moment, I can help him. When I am old, a new, younger resident will come here and they can help me. This is what we all hope for." China's economic miracle has sent millions of rural young to booming cities in search of work and better lives, but most elderly have been left behind. Those aged over 60 account for around 14 percent of China's rural population. That's set to rise to more than 30 percent by 2028, official figures say. The costs of caring for all those ageing farmers could be too heavy a burden for the state to bear; so affordable innovations like this one in Qiantun Village are essential, says Wang Dewen of the World Bank. (SOUNDBITE)(Mandarin) SOCIAL PROTECTION ECONOMIST AT THE WORLD BANK BEIJING OFFICE WANG DEWEN SAYING: "The level of ageing in the countryside is much higher than that in the cities. At the same time, incomes and levels of social security in the countryside are worse. Because of this, in the future, the blow dealt and challenges posed by population ageing in the countryside will be much more serious than in the cities." At the moment, Chinese can only receive benefits in the area where they are registered, a major factor keeping many elderly in the countryside. But until this law changes and families can migrate together, villagers like those in Qiantun will just have to do the best with what they have.

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China turns to age-old solution for rural elderly

Saturday, May 18, 2013 - 02:04

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