Meal services for elderly to expand nationwide
Updated: October 27, 2023 09:30 China Daily

China plans to offer nutritious, affordable and accessible welfare meals for seniors to support elderly care at home and improve their well-being, officials said.

"Meal assistance services have become common needs for the elderly," Tang Chengpei, vice-minister of civil affairs, said at a news conference on Wednesday in Beijing.

Tang said that the number of seniors of advanced ages, or those without family around, has continued to increase.

As of last year, China had more than 280 million people over the age of 60. Some are unable or reluctant to cook three meals a day for themselves. Assisting them with nutritious and accessible food is an issue the government aims to tackle.

Some pilot programs involve the opening of community canteens for the elderly that offer affordable and nutritious meals at home.

An action plan to promote the development of meal services for the elderly was released recently to expand such services nationwide in a convenient and sustainable way, Tang said.

The plan was released by several departments including the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance.

It advocates the development of inclusiveness and diversity, including the principles of government coordination and basic guarantees, tailored and targeted regional measures, and proactive use of market mechanisms.

Efforts will be made to actively build a comprehensive and reasonable elderly meal service network that covers urban and rural areas, Tang said.

Enterprises and government-affiliated organizations are encouraged to participate in offering the service, and meal delivery services are also encouraged.

"It is not a free meal, but an affordable and accessible service," Tang said, adding that regional governments are encouraged to offer subsidies.

Preferential policies will be offered to service providers to ensure profitability, such as tax deductions and offering free facilities, so that the service can be sustainable.

"A total of 18 provincial-level regions already run meal services programs for elderly people. Now we are expanding the network nationwide in a sustainable way," said Yu Jianliang, director of the department of elderly services of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

"The services can be flexible. There are many good examples in various places, with some using elderly facilities to offer the service, some setting up elderly meals at restaurants, and some opening canteens," Yu said, adding that the next step is to offer guidance to integrate resources and explore innovative ways to offer the service.

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