"Time Bank" lends elderly care help in Hainan

(Xinhua) 13:24, November 28, 2022

HAIKOU, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- After receiving an order to deliver food to a blind senior citizen at his home, Chen Wenli quickly gets the meals prepared and then goes to the man's house.

"He is in his 60s, lives alone and often needs help," said Chen, 45, a volunteer for senior citizen assistance in Haikou, capital of south China's Hainan Province. "Besides food, I also help take him to the barber shop, or take garbage out of his house for him."

Chen is a registered volunteer of "Time Bank," a government program aimed at helping make the lives of local elderly people easier.

The program collects the daily needs of registered senior citizens, such as food and newspapers, and then publishes the orders on an embedded mini program on the messaging service WeChat. Registered volunteers then take the orders and provide the voluntary services to those in need.

Each volunteer can get a credit coin called "time currency" for every hour of voluntary service they provide, and they can use the credit coins in exchange for similar voluntary services when they grow old themselves, or donate the coins to others in need of elderly care.

"I think the 'Time Bank' program is great," said Chen. "It helps us deliver services more quickly and timeously, and I think it will help many elderly people in need."

China has a graying population. Official data shows that by the end of 2021, China had 267 million people aged 60 and above, or 18.9 percent of the total population, while those aged 65 and above accounted for over 14 percent of the population.

Authorities began piloting "Time Bank" in Haikou's Qiongshan District last year, hoping that the innovative program could help the local graying population.

So far, the mini program on WeChat has 751 registered volunteers and 63 registered senior people, according to Li Jinling, who is in charge of the program in Qiongshan District.

"At first, the local senior people did not trust us at all," said Li, 42. "They would say to us: What time bank? I don't have money, no fraud on me! But as we provided more voluntary services, they began to let their guard down."

Most of the senior citizens on the mini program are those who live alone in the neighborhoods in the district, or those in poor health, while the volunteers come from all walks of life, such as barbers, doctors and bank employees, said volunteer Wu Meiling, who helps coordinate voluntary activities.

"We also have volunteers aged about 60 or so, and they usually take care of people in their 70s, 80s or even 90s," said Wu. "They are similar in age, and they can understand each other better."

Orders from seniors vary -- from buying medication, to clearing sinks, to cooking. As many of them do not know how to use smartphones, working staff like Wu help to publish their orders on the WeChat program.

"I remember once a grandpa placed an order asking someone to teach him how to make sweet and sour fish," Wu recalled.

Besides online orders, Wu said the volunteers also organize monthly activities for the local graying population.

"For example, we organized for the seniors to tour various gardens in February this year, when the traditional Lantern Festival was celebrated," she said. "For the month of the Mid-autumn Festival, we taught them how to make mooncakes and about baking. They also learned about garbage sorting and how to prevent cerebral apoplexy."

Wu said the volunteers provide the services not for the "credit coins," but to help those in need.

"Some senior people do not have someone to talk to, and some live away from their children. They want to enrich their own lives," Wu said. "Some of them would come to our service center early in the morning, and spend a whole day here just to talk to us, or watch TV."

Zeng Lian, deputy head of the Qiongshan District civil affairs bureau, said that the WeChat platform will help more senior people meet their daily needs by building a bridge between the elderly and the volunteers.

Currently, the "Time Bank" program needs more promotion, said Li Jinling.

"Many senior people do not know about the program or do not know how to operate it online," Li said, adding that they also want more volunteers to join.

"This is about spreading positive energy, and I believe that such positive energy will bring out more good energy in society," Li said.

(Web editor: Cai Hairuo, Wu Chaolan)


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