China Focus: Time banks help promote China's community-based elderly care

2021-10-14 13:05:18 GMT2021-10-14 21:05:18(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

NANNING, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- As the cold winter is approaching, retiree Li Xiuqun, 62, from south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, has volunteered to accompany an elderly woman from her neighborhood to shop for winter clothes.

Since retiring, Li has been dedicated to providing home care services for sick seniors and the elderly via her community's time bank in the city of Nanning, the capital of Guangxi.

The program Li joined is part of a reciprocity-based work trading system of time banking, allowing members to trade hours of work for equal hours of elderly services, rather than paying or being paid for these services.

The concept has become increasingly popular in many cities across China, including Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangxi and Beijing, offering a solution to elderly care as the country faces an aging population problem.

The time bank was first introduced by American legal professor Edgar Cahn in 1980 as a type of elderly care service featuring mutual assistance. Open data shows that over 1,000 related organizations and institutions using the system have been established across the world, providing services including elderly care, medical services and social assistance.

The Xinzhu neighborhood in Qingxiu District, where Li lives, opened a time bank in 2018, aiming to provide diversified volunteer services for the elderly. There are now 245 residents working as volunteers.

Huang Tianxian, one of the first volunteers, often works with Li to provide services including home cleaning, accompanied shopping, grocery shopping and medicine delivery for those in need in the community.

Zeng Guangyi, 81, lives alone and was in need of a helping hand in her daily life. Huang and Li regularly visit Zeng's house, cooking her meals and talking with her.

"They (Huang and Li) really have helped me a lot," said Zeng, who told Xinhua that the warm and meticulous care provided by the volunteers has made her life easier and her neighbors more cordial.

"I consider myself a younger volunteer in my neighborhood, so I would like to earn more credits during my spare time. And in the coming years, I might become the one who is in need of such services," Li said.

She said she now mainly provides care to older empty-nesters, and she believes her efforts are of great significance to social development.

Huang said she usually helps the elderly by cutting their hair, washing their dishes and cleaning.

In the 2021-2025 period, China will see a moderately aging society, and by 2025, the country's population over the age of 60 is expected to exceed 300 million.

Data shows that 90 percent of seniors in China prefer home-based care, and mutual support for the elderly is becoming a popular option in some areas.

A research report on the development of China's time banks, released by the Institute of Population Research of Peking University, noted that the system can be considered a key way for China to actively deal with its aging population.

"The community-based time bank is a new model of mutual assistance for the elderly in China," said Qin Yuning, Party chief of the Xinzhu community. "The model has brought neighbors closer as well." Enditem