China's first automatic bathtub, which is designed for people with mobility problems, has been installed in a Shanghai nursing home.
The bathtub, which uses small vibrations sent through the water to wash the body, was delivered to Shanghai Xiangfu Retirement Center last week, with another 23 models to be sent to homes across the city.
"We've partnered with the government so that as many rehabilitation centres as possible in China can have the product," said Zang Lina, vice-president of Care4 Health Medical Co, which developed the bathtub.
She added that the bathtub is only available in China, although there has been interest from overseas.
Slightly bigger than a traditional bathtub, the Care4 tub is aimed at aiding the elderly or people with mobility issues. It is accessed through a side door, and is fitted with safety rails and a mechanical seat that slides in and out of the water.
To prevent a user from catching a cold, the tub also pipes in warm air while it is being filled or when the water is draining. Built-in leakage protection systems prevent the risk of an electrical accident, while hydrotherapy massage jets boost blood circulation, which can strengthen the immune system.
The high-tech tub costs 50,000 yuan (S$10,360), although Care4 said the price is expected to fall after further remodeling.
Introducing the product in Shanghai nursing homes is part of a programme by the Senior Citizens Foundation to make life more convenient for elderly residents.
Official figures show more than 36 per cent of the city's registered population will be age 60 or older by 2020. Nationally, this demographic is forecast to almost double from the 212 million in 2014 to about 400 million by 2050.
Wei Qiqi, an executive at Shanghai Xiangfu Retirement Center, said the bathtub arrived on Dec 21. Although it has not yet been used, she said it would definitely make it easier for caregivers to bathe residents with mobility problems.
Zhu Youqiong, a caregiver at Huacao Township Nursing Home in the city's Minhang district, said helping an elderly resident to shower takes about an hour, or even longer if the person cannot walk or move without assistance.
"We have to first carry them from their bed, put them into a wheelchair and then into the shower," she said. "Because the floor is wet, preventing them from slipping requires a lot of physical strength."
She said a product like the Care4 bathtub, which can complete a full wash in 15 minutes and can be used up to 25 times a day, would considerably lessen the workload of caregivers and better protect residents' privacy.
Ma Anqi contributed to this story.