Through community service, our team challenged stereotypes and learned valuable lessons about eldercare in their country
In traditional Chinese culture, it is the duty of every child to personally care for their parents when they grow old—and as a result, the eldercare industry isn't nearly as developed as it is in the U.S. In fact, it's practically nonexistent. Life can be lonely for the small population of Chinese elders who require assisted living, especially due to the negative social stigma surrounding nursing homes and the people who need them.
In November of 2010, Grand Circle's team in China did their part to combat this stereotype by performing community service at the Beijing Aidi Nursing Home. Under the leadership of Elaine Yau, our Regional General Manager in China, the group of office staff, local guides, Trip Leaders, and Program Directors spent a day brightening the lives of those who call the center home.
Founded in 1998 with just ten residents, Beijing Aidi has grown into a thriving care center that takes pride in providing a full and happy life for more than 100 senior citizens between the ages of 60 and 90. "It's very well-suited for the demands of well-educated seniors," says Elaine, who was impressed by the availability of mahjongg tables and exercise equipment, and by the attention paid to balanced meals that promote good digestive health.
The Grand Circle team organized a two-hour party for the seniors, featuring games, songs, and plenty of good cheer. The seniors even prepared their own performances. "They gave us big applause," says Elaine. "They were very happy that so many young people came to visit them." The group also purchased three beds and 21 small tables for the residents' apartments, according to the needs of the center.
While it was certainly a fun-filled day for all involved, some members of the team learned a sobering lesson about the difficulties facing senior citizens in China. Leo Gao, a local guide in Beijing, had a particularly moving experience. "As a traditional Chinese, I was never very interested in the social welfare system for elders," he admits. "In my mind, no matter how busy the youth are, they should undoubtedly take the responsibility to look after their parents. Before I came to Beijing Aidi, I thought these seniors had settled at the center because they'd given up hope that their inconsiderate children would care for them."
What Leo saw, however, was the opposite of what he expected. "To my surprise, the seniors not only enjoyed staying here very much, but they even had no interest in going home! They all looked young and happy," he says. "The visit changed my stereotypical idea of nursing homes. Obviously, long and happy life is the main goal of Beijing Aidi."
Still, the center faces challenges that can't be solved in a day—such as a lack of support from the government, which could eventually result in the loss of their land. "We realized that it is not easy to further the cause of senior care in China," says Elaine. "Its development requires much more concern from society as a whole. Giving a happy later life to elders is the responsibility of everyone." We thank Elaine and her team for doing their part to change the face of eldercare in China.
Featured in our December 2010 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.