ANJING - In a welfare house in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, 25-year-old Jiang Zhenyi intently taught an old lady to play wooden block puzzles, not for leisure as in some elderly care service, but as a test to assess the abilities of the aged.
"Judging from the granny's movement of rotating the wooden blocks, her hand-brain coordination is not bad," said Jiang, who held a detailed assessment form in her hands and carefully ticked the checkboxes on it.
Jiang is an elderly ability appraiser, which is one of the newest occupations released by China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in July. Her job is to read the codes of the physical and mental health conditions of the elderly.
China currently has about 250 million people aged over 60. Before the seniors apply for elderly care services, they need to be evaluated in various aspects, including cognitive abilities, emotional behavior, and activities of daily living, to receive specific types of nursing care, according to Jiang.
Wu Suqin, an 83-year-old who lives in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province, has recently undergone this assessment as she applied for temporary free care services the city provides to citizens aged over 80.
"'What was your job?' 'Can you bathe yourself?' 'Do you have any hobbies?' Through simple questions like these, I can tell whether she has any trouble with walking or suffers from memory loss," said Jiang, who has been doing this work for four years.
According to Nanjing's elderly care policy, a senior identified by an elderly ability appraiser as disabled or with dementia can enjoy free daily care for no less than 48 hours every month. Evaluation results can also help determine what levels of old-age service allowances the elderly should be granted.
Ye Xiangyu, an official with the Jiangsu's civil affairs department, said the province now has more than 18.3 million people aged 60 and above, of which 1.3 million are incapacitated or partially disabled.
"Through the ability assessment, we can be better informed of the demand for elderly care and better allocate our resources to help the aged," Ye said, adding that Jiangsu will complete evaluating all the elderly aged over 80 by 2022.
Yet there is still a considerable shortage of professional appraisers like Jiang, who is now working on the assessment of nearly 10,000 seniors over 80 years old at a social service center in Nanjing's Jianye District, together with her colleagues.
"On average, we can evaluate 30 to 40 people a day, and we need to pay return visits to update their results time and again. It's quite a challenging task," Jiang said.
There are currently some 1,000 qualified junior-level appraisers in Nanjing who have undergone relevant training, said Yi Jie, head of the city's welfare service association. "We will keep conducting our training programs to improve their expertise."
Chinese colleges are also offering professional courses, and social institutions are developing more vocational training programs related to this new occupation, according to Ye.
"Eight colleges in Jiangsu have offered majors in elderly management and service, cultivating more than 2,000 graduates every year," he added. "It can help better understand and address the physical, mental, and social needs of the aged."