'Two Sessions' addresses needs of senior citizens

Yang Meiping
Political advisers have submitted several proposals at the "Two Sessions" to address the needs of senior citizens.
Yang Meiping

The well-being of senior citizens is one of the priorities of the "Two Sessions" this year, with political advisers submitting around 10 proposals addressing issues ranging from sports and health to bathing and dining.

One of the recommendations, given by An Qi and Zhao Ling, two members of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, called for the construction of more gateball courts in neighborhoods so that elderly people can play the sport on their doorstep.

Gateball, a croquet game sometimes known as "ground snooker," is a popular activity among the elderly because it promotes strategic collaboration and non-contact play. It is seen as a safe option for elders to exercise their bodies and minds while avoiding loneliness.

The experts pointed out that the sport used to be popular in Shanghai, with numerous courts in communities and institutions. With social and economic development, some of the fields were repurposed, resulting in fewer gateball courts. It became inconvenient for elderly individuals because they had to travel large distances or ask their children to drive them to court.

According to An and Zhao, gateball should be promoted as a way to get elderly people out of the house for social and physical activity, and more courts should be erected near their houses so that they can enjoy the sport more easily.

They proposed that the government conduct surveys of existing gateball facilities around the city to develop adequate plans for the construction, repair, and maintenance of new courts and implement them as quickly as possible to help the elderly population.

Chen Ying, director of Minhang District's Hongqiao Town Culture and Sports Center, welcomed the proposal. The district has 10 gateball courts and a large number of players, ranging from children to octogenarians. A team from the district came in second place in a recent national competition.

"Gateball is not only for old people; it's for everybody, regardless of age or gender. It's also one of the games that can be played by entire families and is therefore a good tool to enhance family ties," he said.

Another political adviser, Huang Haiqing, advocated promoting bathing services at home for the elderly, which has become difficult and unsafe for elderly people with restricted mobility. Huang advised that the government develop laws to ensure that elderly people receive professional services and incorporate the service into medical insurance to decrease financial pressures on families.

Another recommendation made by more than 20 CPPCC members called for the development of sports and health centers that provide workout facilities and guidance, as well as health monitoring and education for the elderly.

The advisers said the distribution of such centers is unequal and the opening hours are too short. Some centers lack health instructors who can provide proper direction on fitness, rehabilitation, and health care.

The group proposed building 20 sports and health centers for seniors each year for the next three years, relocating remote centers to more accessible locations, upgrading equipment, extending opening hours, collaborating with local hospitals, and hiring full-time professional instructors to better serve the elderly.

Liu Xinyu, a CPPCC member, recommended improving communal dining services for the elderly.

The city has over 400 community canteens and 1,600 facilities to meet the dining needs of seniors, providing over 200,000 meals every day.

However, the organizations differ in pricing, service quality, and service range. Liu urged that the government set regulatory norms and provide additional assistance, including financial aid, to less developed areas.

Liu also urged catering businesses to create a barrier-free atmosphere for the elderly and prepare special dishes for them, as well as communities and schools to mobilize volunteers to provide volunteer services.

By the end of 2022, the number of residents aged 60 and up had risen to about 5.54 million in Shanghai, accounting for 36.8 percent of the population.

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