Volunteers pilot "senior citizen support bank"

PHOTO: Reuters

Jiangsu province is piloting a "senior citizen support bank" in many communities to find a solution to its increasing problem of caring for older people.

In the "bank", the hours volunteers spend helping older people will be recorded and will earn them the same amount of help later for themselves, their relatives or other people.

Wu Weihua, head of Dayanggou community, which is piloting the project in Nanjing, said that many senior citizens have been attracted by the idea of the bank.

"They said that now they are capable of taking care of others, and people will look after them when they need help," Wu said.

"More than 300 people have registered as volunteers in the community," said Wu. "About two-thirds are senior citizens of a comparatively young age. The volunteers can apply for 13 kinds of service, including doing laundry, reading newspapers and buying groceries."

Fu Guilan, who lives in the community, said that the volunteer hours she has saved will spare her children from the burden of taking care of her in the future.

"Now I spend one hour every day to serve food and clean the floor at a nursing home in the community," said the 66-year-old. "I've been volunteering for four months. It provides an opportunity for the older people to help each other."

According to Wu, the bank has recorded about 2,000 volunteer hours since it opened in October.

Chashou Nursing Home in the city's Gulou district has attracted more than 100 volunteers aged from 19 to 72 in six months.

Li Linshuang, head of the home, said that recording the hours also shows respect to the volunteers.

"Although some people don't look for payback, it's our obligation to remember how much they have helped us," Li said.

According to Nanjing's Civil Affairs Department, 98 percent of the city's 1.2 million senior citizens choose to stay at home instead of going to nursing homes. About half of those aged 85 or above cannot care for themselves.

The department said that the bank will be spread to the whole city, including remote districts.

While 43,000 care workers are needed to visit the seniors in their homes, the city only has 3,000 professional care workers, according to its Civil Affairs Department.

According to the provincial Civil Affairs Department, people aged above 60 account for more than 20 percent of the province's population.

The department encourages college students and high school students to volunteer in their spare time. Employers are asked to give priority to the volunteers when they apply for jobs.

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