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China’s “Silver Economy” on the Rise with Mobile Bathing Services for the Elderly

ChinaSocietyChina's "Silver Economy" on the Rise with Mobile Bathing Services for the Elderly

Taking a simple shower or bath is often taken for granted by many, but for some elderly people, especially those with disabilities, it can be a luxury. This is why seniors in Southwest China’s Chongqing are pleased with the emergence of a mobile bathing service, which has brought them comfort and dignity.

Liu Juchuan, an 80-year-old veteran with mobility issues, seldom took baths before the service was offered. His aging wife also struggles to get around, and their children don’t live with them. Liu said they prefer to wait until their children visit to help them or just take quick showers rather than risk injury in a wet bathroom.

The couple’s problems were solved three years ago, when a mobile bath van started to frequent their community in the city’s Jiulongpo district. “We feel so happy to have such service,” a beaming Liu said.

As Chinese society ages, elder care programs and relevant industries should be vigorously developed, and related facilities should be built in areas with adequate conditions, said President Xi Jinping during an inspection tour of an elder care service center in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on Aug 17. A report delivered by Xi to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on Oct 16 stressed that China must pursue a proactive national strategy in response to its aging population, develop elder care programs and services, and provide better services for elderly people who live alone. By doing so, the country can ensure that basic elder care is accessible to all Chinese seniors.

The mobile bath van has been described as a ‘timely rain’ for many families. The idea was inspired by the bathing troubles experienced by Long Quanming’s father, who broke his tailbone in 2015 and became partially disabled. In 2017, Long designed a fully equipped mobile bath van, which has been awarded three national patents.

According to data from the latest national census, there are 264 million people age 60 and above in China, or about 18.7 percent of the population. There are 7 million such people living in Chongqing, roughly 21.8 percent of the city’s population. The problem is especially acute in Chongqing’s Jiulongpo district, where there are more than 191,000 people age 60 and up — 22.6 percent of the district’s population and higher than the city average.

To help solve this problem, the city’s first elderly bathing demonstration center, containing mobile bath vans and fixed bathing service centers that served seniors for free, was jointly launched in December 2018 by the Chongqing Charity Federation, the Chongqing Pension Service Association, and Chongqing Sunshine Eldercare Service in Jiulongpo.

It’s never easy being an elderly bathing service worker,” said 44-year-old Long Surong from Chongqing Sunshine. “First and foremost, we should love others’ elderly relatives as our own.” She said a bathing service is usually carried out by two to three workers. Before the bath, they will do health evaluations for the senior bathers, including taking their blood pressure. They also disinfect the bathtub, install a disposable bathtub bag, adjust the water to an appropriate temperature, help the elderly remove their clothes, lift them into the bathtub, and wash their hair and bodies.

According to Chongqing Sunshine, so far, 10 mobile bath vans have provided free elderly bathing services in more than 200 communities, villages, and institutions, including elder care centers, nursing and welfare homes, in the city’s 27 districts. Over 200 bathing service workers from the company have provided more than 41,000 public welfare bathing services for disabled and partially disabled seniors and those who live alone.

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