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China promotes star-rating nursing homes

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Equipped with courtyard rooms, small libraries and billiards tables, Happy Sunshine is not a luxury hotel for tourists, but a nursing home catering to the elderly in east China's Jiangsu Province.

XinhuaUpdated: October 26, 2020

Equipped with courtyard rooms, small libraries and billiards tables, Happy Sunshine is not a luxury hotel for tourists, but a nursing home catering to the elderly in east China's Jiangsu Province.

Located in the city of Changzhou, Happy Sunshine has 210 beds and a medical institution that includes outpatient clinics and a pharmacy.

"It is designed as a five-star nursing home for elderly people," said Dong Mei, general manager of investor Jiangsu Xingfu Tiannian Elderly Care Service Co., Ltd., noting that the province is now rating elderly care institutions and Happy Sunshine stands a good chance of scoring highly.

More and more elderly Chinese are willing to live the rest of their lives in nursing homes as the country, with an over-60 population of 250 million, is facing the world's fastest aging process.

Qian Huifang, 64, lives in Jiangsu's Nanjing and has decided to choose a senior home with medical care services to spend her twilight years.

"But I cannot really tell which ones are better from the advertisements. If nursing homes are rated like hotels or hospitals, it will be much easier to tell the difference," Qian said.

According to a report on the development status of nursing institutions for the elderly, the number of such institutions nationwide increased from over 40,000 in 2011 to 171,000 in 2018.

To further regulate the market, Chinese authorities have enforced several national-level standards for elderly care institutions, including the country's first star-rating system for nursing homes, which was launched last year.

Jiangsu has been evaluating nursing homes across the province since August, making it a pilot area for the star-rating process.

According to Lu Min, an official with Jiangsu's civil affairs department, the province currently has around 2,400 elderly care institutions of various types. "Star ratings can help optimize the market environment and reduce information asymmetry."

Zhang Shu, an expert in Jiangsu involved in the star-rating process, said the nursing homes will be given ratings from one to five stars based on evaluations in fields like life care, medical services, rehabilitation, and entertainment.

"You need to learn from five-star hotels and offer services at the same level," said Wang Hongbing, chairman of an elderly care company in Jiangsu, who has applied for the five-star rating.

Wang believes that elderly Chinese people nowadays come to nursing homes to either seek medical care or fulfill social and spiritual needs, so rated institutions should offer more specific services.

"For instance, a five-star nursing home should offer adequate medical services and frequently hold recreational activities," he said. 

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