City's senior services slowly return to normal

Hu Min
As the coronavirus epidemic winds down, canteens aimed at Shanghai's elderly population are gradually reopening. Home-based care services are also resuming.
Hu Min
City's senior services slowly return to normal
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Seniors have lunch at the Caohejing community canteen in Xuhui District on Thursday.

City's senior services slowly return to normal
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Diners are served at the Caohejing community canteen in Xuhui District. 

City's senior services slowly return to normal
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

People have lunch at the Caohejing community canteen in Xuhui District.

Senior services in the city are gradually returning to normal, Shanghai's civil affairs bureau said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Zhong Fengxiu, 64, had her first get-together with friends outside her home since the COVID-19 outbreak. The group chose the Caohejing community canteen in Xuhui District to meet over lunch.

The canteen mainly provides meals for seniors living in nearby residential compounds, as well as some of the area's office workers. It suspended dining services during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic and only reopened on Wednesday.

Zhong and her friends, two neighbors, live at a residential complex close to the canteen. She visited the canteen almost every day when it first opened in June last year.

"The dishes here cater to the tastes of Shanghainese, and are delicious," Zhong told Shanghai Daily.

"I have been heeding authorities' calls to stay at home for months, except for visits to supermarkets and wet markets. I organized this get-together at my doorway after learning the canteen has reopened."

"I've gotten bored with home-cooked meals and wanted a change," said Yuan Dongdi, one of Zhong's companions. "The food served at community-based canteens is safe and healthy."

"The prices are quite affordable for retirees as well," added Zhong.

The canteen usually has seating for 146, but this was cut to about 60 to prevent gathering, said Lu Xiaofeng, head of Shanghai Yuanyuan Catering Management Co which operates the canteen.

"We advise diners to keep distance when seated, or sit one per table, and the frequency of disinfection of dishware and public areas inside the canteen has been stepped up," he said.

All diners are required to have their temperature checked before entry, and only lunch service has resumed so far. Dinner is expected to start again in late May.

The canteen now serves about 20 dishes every day, compared with 50 or so before the coronavirus epidemic, according to Lu.

It received 96 diners on its first day of reopening. Before the epidemic, the number was 500 to 600 daily.

"We expect the figure to grow next week because many do not know of the reopening yet," said Lu.

"About 70 percent of diners are seniors, and most dishes served at the canteen are not spicy to satisfy their tastes," said Lu.

Xi Linqiang, 93, is a regular diner at the canteen. He lives alone at home near the canteen.

"The meals here are delicious and safe, and I visit here twice a week when I don't want to cook at home," he said.

The canteen was opened after the Caohejing Subdistrict officials found that nearly 30 percent of seniors in the area had a need for meal services.

The daily capacity of the canteen is about 1,000 meals. It also offers food delivery service for the elderly.

The prices are about 15 to 20 percent lower than nearby restaurants and seniors can enjoy discounts too.

The canteen features barrier-free facilities for seniors and provides sugar-free dishes for patients with diabetes.

It is also a social and event venue for seniors at non-meal times. The activity venue is expected to reopen in May, said Lu.

By the end of 2019, Shanghai had 1,020 meal service spots for seniors, including 210 community-based ones with food delivery service.

They supplied over 100,000 meals to seniors daily before the epidemic, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

After the COVID-19 outbreak, canteens across the city suspended on-site dining services to ensure food safety and prevent gathering, and meals were delivered to seniors living alone or having financial difficulties, the bureau said.

On-site dining services are now gradually resuming at canteens for the elderly, and these supply about 15,000 meals to senior diners at present, according to the bureau.

City's senior services slowly return to normal
Hu Min / SHINE

Wang Ai'e (right), a home senior care service provider, combs the hair of 85-year-old Shi Lanying on Thursday.

City's senior services slowly return to normal
Hu Min / SHINE

Wang Ai'e (right) is doing massage on 85-year-old Shi Lanying.

At the Wuliqiao Subdistrict of Huangpu District, 85-year-old Shi Lanying recently had a happy reunion with Wang Ai'e, her home-care provider for the past five years.

The COVID-19 outbreak halted Wang's visits for about a month as city authorities prohibited some home-based services to curtail the spread of coronavirus.

Home senior care services include cleaning, cooking, medicine pick-up, bill payment, bathing assistance, and accompanying the elderly to hospitals, to name some, said Wang Xiaoshang, deputy director of the Wuliqiao Subdistrict Office.

The subdistrict has 160 seniors receiving home care services, which have all been resumed now, said Wang.

Shi lives alone and service provider Wang visits her once every two days. The services cover cleaning, washing clothing, massage and cooking, with visits lasting two hours each.

"Her memory has deteriorated and I also need to remind her to check her blood pressure and take medicine," said Wang.

"I missed Wang when service was suspended due to the coronavirus because I could not handle all the housework alone," said Shi.

Wang did not return to her hometown in Anhui Province during the Spring Festival holiday because of the epidemic.

She provides home senior care services for six clients in total.

"Although I was at home and off work for some time during the epidemic, my heart was with them," Wang told Shanghai Daily.

"I did not know whether they were okay, which concerned me, and I had to call them frequently," she said.

"I like talking with them and treat them like my own parents as I have been providing service to them for such a long time," she said.

"They like me as well and share every secret with me," Wang added.

"When I received an official's call to resume work, I was so happy and visited grandma Shi immediately," she said.

Wang wears a mask and gloves while on the job. She has her temperature measured twice a day.

Wuliqiao Subdistrict has 26,191 people with Shanghai hukou, or registered residency, above 60 years old, accounting for 39.68 percent of all such residents in the subdistrict.

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