Experts offered their insights and solutions to tackle China's growing aging population, addressing the existing challenges in elderly care at a forum in Shaanxi province on Sunday.
"The aging society is poised to become our most significant challenge in the future, a grey rhino,” said Yi Peng, president of the Pangoal Institution. “The question is how to transform this problem into an opportunity and a driving force.”
Just a day before the Double Ninth Festival celebrated for elderly people, the forum was jointly held by the Pangoal Institution and the government of Huangling county, Shaanxi province. The county is the resting place of Emperor Yellow, the legendary progenitor of the Chinese nation.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the population aged 65 and above accounted for 14.9 percent of the total population in the country by the end of 2022, and is expected to exceed 30 percent in 2050.
The previous one-child policy, coupled with the current high divorce rates, lower marriage rates, and declining birth rates, collectively contribute to a higher dependency ratio, said Zhang Xinhong, director of sharing economy research at the State Information Center.
He proposed a shared elderly care model, utilizing the internet to integrate dispersed resources, allowing for shared usage rights to meet diverse needs. For example, retirees in rural areas can make use of unused rural houses and homesteads, potentially revitalizing the countryside and achieving genuine urban-rural integration.
Dang Junwu, deputy director of the China Research Center on Aging, emphasized the need to vigorously develop the elderly economy and elderly industry, noting that “wealth primarily resides in the hands of middle-aged and elderly individuals”.
He said the “silver” industry extends beyond building nursing homes, with the pinnacle being the cultural industry. For instance, cultivating the dance industry, which is immensely popular among middle-aged and elderly people, he mentioned knowing a leader in Beijing's square-dancing community who has 3 million members.
Wu Bihu, a professor at the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, advocated travel as a retirement option, highlighting that many retirees have the physical and mental capacity to explore new horizons.
"It's been scientifically proven that traveling or exploring new places, interacting with others, and taking in different landscapes make people healthier," he said.