China is taking steps to turn its growing number of elderly people into a new driver of high-quality economic growth by encouraging integrated development of the "silver economy", a move that will benefit the elderly and boost their sense of happiness.
The State Council, China's Cabinet, recently released a guideline encouraging companies and industry participants in sectors such as accommodation, healthcare, tourism and financial consultancy to optimize their services and products for the elderly.
The guideline said that the "silver economy" — economic activities offering products or services for the elderly — has great potential that is yet to be tapped fully because of the large size of the market and diversity of the industries involved.
According to the guideline, hospitals and healthcare institutions are encouraged to build up capability to treat geriatric diseases and improve rehabilitation services for the elderly.
The guideline also encourages catering companies, charitable organizations and nursing homes to offer dining assistance to the elderly. Food delivery and logistics companies are encouraged to actively get involved in the business of food delivery to senior citizens.
Elderly-oriented high-tech products such as domestic nursing robots and rehabilitation assistance devices should be developed and promoted, the guideline said.
In addition to calling for improvement in domestic services, the guideline also encourages travel agencies and cultural companies to develop more products that cater to the needs of the elderly.
China, with a population of 1.41 billion, is facing an increasingly serious aging issue. As of the end of 2022, the nation had more than 280 million people aged above 60, roughly 20 percent of the total population, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Of the group, about 210 million are over 65 years old.
Yang Xiaoqi, a researcher at the China Research Center on Aging, said: "China has a large market for the 'silver economy' because of the rising elderly population. Figures show that China will have the world's largest aging population till 2067. It's estimated that from 2024 to 2050, we will see the population of people aged above 60 increasing from 293 million to 509 million."
He said the younger generation's filial duty toward the elderly will also boost the silver economy as many of the elderly-oriented products are purchased by young people for their aging family members.
Pang Shi, director of the Chinese Academy of Personnel Science's department of employment and entrepreneurship in Beijing, said that developing the "silver economy "is an active response to the aging problem, which can help set up a high-quality pension and nursing services mechanism.
"Developing industries appealing to the elderly such as tourism and healthcare is a good way to bring social and economic benefits to the group and let them enjoy their remaining years," she said.
However, the nation still face challenges in its bid to boost the silver economy due to the imperfect social security mechanism and weaknesses in advancing technologies and innovations, said experts.
Li Jun, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "The aging people nowadays are economically better-off. Our country has complete industries to meet demands of the elderly. But the imperfect social security system may hamper people's willingness to consume."
"Though we face problems, development of the 'silver economy' is an inevitable trend because the increasing age of the population will change the nation's demographic structure and affect the economic development mode in the future," he added.