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A resident participates in a drawing game during a Double Ninth Festival celebration at the Jinchang senior apartment facility in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, on Thursday. The ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls on Saturday, is dedicated to the elderly. [Photo by HANG XINGWEI/CHINA DAILY]


The Ministry of Civil Affairs has published a draft of national service standards for institutions that care for the elderly, and is seeking public comment.

The draft, which was released on Oct 17, includes a series of requirements to protect the rights of the elderly and ensure quality of service. It covers areas such as catering, psychological support, education, nursing, medical care and hospice care.

The public can make suggestions about the draft by phone or email before Nov 12.

The protection of seniors" privacy is mentioned four times in the draft. Special areas for reception and consulting should be set up, and personnel should take particular care to ensure privacy. They should pay attention to changes in the mood of elderly clients and stop any consultation if it turns negative, it said.

Staff members should not disclose information about a client without consent, it added.

The draft also asks each institution to establish an assessment mechanism and offer tailored services to clients, as well as complaint filing and handling procedures that provide a response within 10 workdays.

There should be communications equipment-including but not limited to telephones and internet access-in nursing institutions. They should dispatch specialists to assist those who have difficulty communicating, the draft said.

The number of seniors over 60 years of age continues to rise. According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, 16.7 percent of China"s population, or 230 million people, were over 60 as of the end of last year. The figure is expected to increase to 17.8 percent by 2020.

Currently, there are no mandatory national standards for services at nursing facilities in China. Most have developed their own, said Cao Jing, an operations manager at Golden Heights, a nursing home in Beijing"s Chaoyang district.

With the adoption of new national standards, some nursing homes will be forced to improve their facilities and services or go out of business, she said.

The biggest problem for the development of the industry is lack of expertise in caring for the elderly, and many young people are reluctant to do the job, Cao said.

Chen Ying, 53, a retired civil servant from Yibin, Sichuan province, said she welcomes the draft.

"My daughter works far away from me in Beijing and I don"t want to go that far to enjoy my old age. It"s probably the best choice for my husband and me to go to nursing home in my hometown," she said.

Standards that cover even small details, such as correct room temperature, can help the elderly in care centers a lot, Chen said.

"The draft asks that seniors be helped with communication. I like this very much," she said. "As I become old, I may have difficulty getting in touch with my daughter and may need some help."