Sunday, June 3, 2007

Answers to Questions

Several questions were posted on this blog. I'll do my best to respond to them!
1. BBF: Decades ago? Couldn't you have just said years ago? Even as a gerontologist, I find years ago easier to acknowledge then decades!
2. M&L: Yes, Mom knows how to post to a blog!
3. Cobosn: regarding differences between the visit to the Beijing Retirement Home (BRH) and our system of residential/skilled care in the US: the BRH is a type of social welfare institution. The requirements for admittance to this home are an age of 60+, free of contagious disease or mental disorder, capable of self-care, and able to live in a group setting. The director did tell us that they were debating whether to open the admissions policy to people with disabilities or in need of more care.

My understanding is that the government does support different types of institutional care for the elderly with varying degrees of disability, including lodging and nursing homes. These homes may be government or private institutions, and variations in-between.

From The Development of China's Undertakings for the Aged by the Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, provided to us during the National Committee on Aging lecture: "By the end of 2005, there were 39,546 institutions providing services for seniors, such as social welfare institutions for the aged, elderly people's homes, senior citizens' lodging houses, and nursing homes for the aged, with a total of 1,497 million beds, including 29,681 rural elderly people's homes with 895,000 beds."

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 1, 2007


While there's no place like home, home does look a little different now. Certainly, visiting Beijing and attempting to make generalizations about China is akin to visiting Chicago and generalizing to all of the United States; and Chicago reflects very little of the life here in the Flint Hills of Kansas! Yet, reflections on the experience do bring up points to ponder.

The commonality of the problems to the aging challenge are astounding. What is also astounding, and a little discouraging, is that there also seems to be a commonality in the lack of adequate solutions. China does have an opportunity to craft new policy and programs, but, at least as outlined during the seminar workshops and visits, there are obvious gaps and deficits. It seems that while the Chinese do believe that the government has a social responsibility to its citizens, this responsibility is carried only to a certain point, in light of the reforms to a type of market economy and other social policies. Particularly disturbing was the open way many of the presenters discussed the breakdown of traditions in children caring for older adults. The government is strongly encouraging Family Support Contracts: a legal document that outlines what children will provide for their parents. Can you legislate family caregiving? And if you can...should you?

The absolute sheer numbers and enormity of what they face in China is overwhelming. One older person of every four will be 80+ years of age in 40 years, and China will have 25% of the world's 60+ population in 2030. No wonder adequate solutions are hard to come by. Embedded in these numbers is the apparent disparity in urban and rural populations in China. From differing health insurance plans to lower levels of education and the abandonment of older adults by their children in rural areas, it may be that the urban older adult programs seen in Beijing are not yet an option for rural older adults.

China is an interesting mixture of tradition, technology, and a changing social and economic system. Perhaps they can learn from our past mistakes and successes, and perhaps we can learn from their current ones as we plan a more hopeful old age for our citizens.

Please go to, global aging, photo album, for pictures of the seminar!