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State to boost efforts for rural elderly care

By He Dan (China Daily)

08:08, May 18, 2012

A worker from a Japanese company shows visitors a therapeutic "robot" seal named Paro, which is used to provide a companion to the elderly. The 2012 China Forum on the Development of the Senior Service Industry opened in Shanghai on Thursday. Zhou Wei / for China Daily

The government plans to invest more to improve senior citizen services in rural areas because more elderly people live there than in cities, a social trend expected to continue until the middle of the century, a senior Ministry of Civil Affairs official said on Thursday.

Dou Yupei, vice-minister of civil affairs, said the rural elderly population is 1.24 percent larger than its urban counterpart.

By 2028, he said, the discrepancy is projected to increase to 11 percent.

By the middle of the century, the number of rural elderly will be 20 percent higher than urban elderly in 28 provincial-level regions, Dou said at the 2012 China Forum on the Development of Senior Service Industry in Shanghai on Thursday.

"The proportion of elderly people in rural areas is far higher than in urban areas. The massive migration of young adults to urban areas is the driving force behind this phenomenon," said Wang Dewen, a World Bank economist specialized in social security system.

This trend will continue and families will come under more strain to support future generations of the rural elderly, Wang warned.

"We will increase our efforts to improve social support services for the aged in rural areas, especially for those left-behind seniors (whose adult children migrate to cities)," Dou told China Daily in an interview on the sidelines of the forum.

He said that during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the government will allocate more funds and resources to provide better care services for rural elderly. He added that the government aims to have 50 percent of rural communities equipped with basic elderly-friendly facilities and provide senior services by the end of 2015.

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