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Age of disillusion haunts senior citizens (4)

By  Cang Wei and Song Wenwei  (China Daily)

08:20, September 28, 2012

'Toys' for the elderly

Compared with elderly people overseas, those in China generally "don't know how to play", said Zhao. "Many people become confused after retirement and don't have an interest in anything," he said. "Society should provide more opportunities for the elderly to have fun, including producing "toys" especially designed for them," he said.

These toys range from electronic mathematical and spelling puzzles and brainteasers - designed to stimulate older minds - to dolls aimed at replicating the feeling of having a grandchild.

According to Zhao, China lags behind other countries, when it comes to manufacturing toys to stimulate older people. "About 99 percent of Chinese toy factories just produce items for children, but in more-developed economies about 40 percent of toys are designed for older people. It may take China 30 years to catch up with some countries in this area."

He added that more than one-fifth of elderly people in the United States play video games, but that the phenomenon is rarely seen in China.

Lu suggested that the issue of Alzheimer's disease in the elderly population needs to be addressed and that comprehensive measures should be put in place by the government and local communities.

"The government should put forward specific medical strategies to assure effective and affordable treatment for patients. Communities should also provide daycare centers and preferential policies to alleviate the burden on the families," he said.

"By 2050, China will have a population of almost 100 million people that have lost the ability to work," said Li. "That will pose a great challenge for society and the government."

According to the Ministry of Health, the medical expenditure on mental health issues tops the outlay for all other diseases in China, and the situation may still be the same in 2020.

The ministry has already highlighted the mental health issues afflicting the elderly in its working plan, according to Li. He suggested that the country should formulate "a positive aging strategy" to deal with the mental health issues prompted by China becoming an "aged society".

"One positive aging strategy is that of reducing the size of the population with mental health problems through the education and medical care systems, and to scientifically and effectively treat people who already have mental health issues."

"The elderly should realize that they've acquired total freedom and are their own masters after retirement" said Zhao. "Life can be colorful or even more attractive when people enter another phase of life."

According to Wu Yushao, vice-president of the China National Committee on Aging, the country will pay more attention to the establishment of the universities for the elderly.

Zhao suggested that older people should participate more in public affairs, visit friends and relatives frequently, fulfill their responsibility to their families and develop a range of hobbies to maintain a healthy mental outlook.

"It's the time to experience, to feel, and to enjoy," he said.

Contact the reporter at [email protected]

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