HEIHE (China) • A niche market has developed for eldercare in Heilongjiang province, as growing numbers of seniors from Russia and South Korea travel to the north-eastern Chinese region.
Last year, about 650,000 pensioners made their way to Heilongjiang for leisure travel, to try out hot-spring therapies and traditional Chinese medicine treatments, and to visit spas.
This year, the number of older visitors has exceeded a million, and business is continuing to heat up, said the local government.
Heihe city plans to develop a new source of economic growth by launching a high-end route that combines trips to volcanic hot springs with visits to Heihe and Blagoveshchensk.
The Russian city lies less than 1.6km away across the dividing Heilong River, which Russians know as the Amur River.
The package aims to bring more Russian pensioners to the area for recuperation and tourism, while encouraging more Chinese seniors to visit Russia.
Bracelets for seniors
BEIJING • A total of 12,000 seniors in China's capital city will receive free bracelets that could help prevent them from getting lost, the local authorities said.
The bracelets will be given to seniors who have cognitive problems such as dementia, said Mr Wang Ning, deputy mayor of Beijing.
The bracelets are equipped with GPS. By installing an app on their smartphones, children of the seniors can locate their parents. The wearers can also make emergency calls with the bracelets.
China's population is ageing. Last year, about 222 million of the country's 1.3 billion citizens were aged 60 or older.
A survey by the Zhongmin Social Assistance Institute and leading news platform Toutiao found that 1,370 senior citizens, with an average age of 76, go missing every day.
There are also other measures to help seniors in Beijing. Mr Wang said that emergency-call devices and smoke detectors for seniors living alone are being installed. By the end of this month, the equipment would be given to at least 5,800 households.
Near Wudalianchi National Park, a tourism resort with top healthcare and spa resources in Heihe, the Millennium Eldercare Centre numbered about 11,000 senior citizens among its clients last year.
More than 8,000 were Russians.
The sanatorium's president, Ms Ye Hui, said hot-spring spas had become an increasingly popular choice for customers.
"We are building a spa venue and bringing volcanic hot springs into the venue," she said.
"In summer, often a busy season, the hotel rooms at our centre are usually full.
"With the lure of the hot springs, we plan to attract more customers to come here in winter and thus transform the current off-season into another busy season."
Ms Ivanova Natalia Ivanovna, a Russian senior citizen who has been to the Wudalianchi resort area four times, said she loves the region, adding that she has taken vacations there every year for health and spa treatments.
"I can enjoy professional massages as well as traditional Chinese medicine treatments such as acupuncture," she said.
As of last month, Heilongjiang had 2,265 registered eldercare agencies offering more than 200,000 beds.
On average, more than 155,000 elderly customers stayed with those agencies each year, said the local government.
Last year, the added value of the eldercare sector in the province accounted for 9.9 per cent of the local gross domestic product (GDP), having edged up 0.7 percentage point year-on-year.
The sector is working to attract more elderly customers from other areas in China as well.
CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK