A man plays with his grandson in a residential community in Zhangjiagang, East China's Jiangsu province, on June 21, 2020.(Photo: Xinhua)
NANJING－In a welfare house in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, 25-year-old Jiang Zhenyi watched a female resident put together wooden block puzzles－not for leisure as in some elderly care centers, but as a test of the aging woman's cognitive abilities.
"Judging from her ability to rotate the wooden blocks, her hand-eye coordination is not bad," said Jiang, who carefully ticked checkboxes on a detailed assessment form as the older woman worked on the puzzle.
Jiang is an elderly ability appraiser, one of the latest occupations to be recognized by China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in July. Her job is to assess the physical and mental health conditions of the elderly.
China currently has about 250 million people aged over 60. Before they can apply for elderly care services, they need to undergo various tests－including evaluations of their cognitive abilities and emotional behavior, as well as an assessment of their daily activities－to receive specific types of nursing care, according to Jiang.
Wu Suqin, an 83-year-old woman who lives in Nanjing, recently underwent this testing so that she could apply for free, temporary elderly care services the city provides to citizens over age 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 walking or suffers from memory loss," said Jiang, who has been doing this type of 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 at least 48 hours every month. Evaluation results can also help determine what level of service the elderly person should be granted.
Ye Xiangyu, an official with Jiangsu's civil affairs department, said the province now has more than 18.3 million people aged 60 and above, of whom 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 evaluations on all the elderly currently 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 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 about 1,000 qualified junior-level appraisers in Nanjing who have undergone 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, according to Ye.
"Eight colleges in Jiangsu have offered majors in elderly management and service, cultivating more than 2,000 graduates every year," he said. "The programs can help people better understand and address the physical, mental and social needs of the aged."