On September 28, Dr. Qaisar Abbas, Chief of Research Division of the CAREC Institute, moderated a session of the Elderly Care System Development Forum, organized by the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank Institute. The three-day forum is aimed at enhancing knowledge exchange from ADB’s elderly care projects and strengthening the capacity of ADB developing member countries to better plan, implement and monitor programs for elderly care system development.
During the session on Expanding Quality Elderly Care Services, Dr. Abbas noted that the elderly care services include a broad range of practices and institutions that help senior citizens to age with dignity. Asian countries use the government-run elderly care systems helping with daily home care and medical care. The support for elderly also comes from families, private and civil society organizations.
Mr. Jing Jun, Director of the Research Center for Medical Sociology, Tsinghua University, highlighted the existing large gap in palliative care for the elderly in China. Of 10 million Chinese people who died in 2018, only 280 thousand received palliative care that is due to the low availability of palliative care in medical facilities, only 0.7 percent provide such services, and nearly non-existence of home and community palliative care.
Mr. He Zongke, Doctor and Senior Nurse Specialist at the University of North Carolina Hospital, spoke about the Living Will practices in the USA and the US Federal Government’s Patient Self-Determination Act. The former is a document signed by people in advance when they are well or conscious, stating whether they want or do not want one kind of medical care at the end of an incurable injury or death. The latter requires to respect the patient’s medical autonomy and protect the patient’s right to choose or refuse medical treatment through the Advance Medical Directives. Mr. Zongke proposes to promote the Living Will, life and death education, and more importantly, the practice of hospice care in elderly care facilities in the PRC.
Mr. Deng Xueyi, Secretary General of the Shaanxi Ageing Development Foundation, spoke about civil society’s participation in elderly care service provision in Shaanxi province of the PRC. The Shaanxi Ageing Development Foundation collaborates with international and local civil society organizations. The foundation has well-established partnership with the international NGO HelpAge International and rural elderly associations to provide more services in rural and remote areas. The rural elderly associations unite more than 20 thousand senior organizations established by senior citizens themselves, and about 30 thousand rural mutual aid stations established by Civil Affairs. Local civil society actively engages volunteers to help the elderly, trains the senior citizens, and participates in the development of the elderly care plan and the necessary regulations.
For those CAREC countries with rapidly aging populations, priority should be given to the development of comprehensive care systems for the elderly in order to avoid serious socioeconomic problems. The forum serves as a platform for dialogue between governments, civil society, medical institutions and experts to form partnerships in the field of care for the elderly and adaptation to an aging demographic.