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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Age Bank Boosts Care for China’s Elderly Citizens

In a novel experiment to deal with China's massive elderly population, a businessman has developed a so-called age bank, whereby volunteers care for aging neighbours and then bank the hours for their own care when they grow old.

Traditionally, Chinese families have lived under one roof so younger generations can care for their elders.

However, it is estimated that in 40 years, a third of China's population - about 440 million people - will be over the age of 60, and many may not have relatives to care for them.

The businessman, a former land developer named Feng Kexiong who was himself facing retirement, came up with the idea of having younger volunteers put in time caring for the elderly and then cashing out those hours when they need assistance in their later years.

"In this day and age, all the young people go away to work," Feng told CTV News. "And with so many elderly, this age bank was the way to go."

Sixty-two-year-old Zhao Ji Bing and 34-year-old Ye Fa Que are two volunteers who care for seniors in their Chongqing neighbourhood.

They clean, shop for groceries and purchase medicine, all of which they do for free. However, they log their hours in a database at the local community centre.
"The concept," Zhao said, "is we help when we can and later, others will help us in return."

After four years, the bank now has 250 clients and thousands of logged volunteer hours in just a single neighbourhood.

Twenty other cities across China have also opened their own age banks.
"Unlike real banks these days, we're not worried about going under," Feng said. "In fact, we're expanding."

Courtesy: http://www.globalaging.org/health/world/2009/bank.htm

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