China’s aging population is dramatically increasing with a prediction that 24% will be over 65 by 2050 (Population Reference Bureau, 2012). Factors contributing to this include improved life expectancy with higher disease control and the one child policy. Through social policy, 1996’s ‘Old Age Law’ highlights the five basic needs and targets for healthy aging as to have a carer, health care, opportunities to study and learn, contribute to society and live a happy life (Wooa et all, 2002).
The health remains a key factor in the wellbeing of aging residents with general consensus to achieve healthy aging in China. Wooa’s research shows that in Beijing, major causes of death include cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke (2002). Many of these are worsened by personal habits. The Chinese diet has a high sodium intake and smoking amongst males is socially common and accepted, especially in business culture. As China’s health ministry begins to oversee chronic disease prevention such as the 2002’s establishment of the National Centre (Kaneda, 2006), there is room for design innovation to match the pace of the aging population growth. These include long term thinking strategies to sustain future generations on health, a fundamental unit to achieve the other Old Age Law targets. Education programs can be used to create greater awareness, convenient food models, user-friendly devices to track health and adjusted lifestyle products for the later stages of illness can be designed.
Chinese cyclists ride past three elderly men from neighborhood watch committees in central Beijing on February 27, 2003.
The traditional family structure of many generations living in the same house meant each generation was being looked after by adult children. However this is being subverted with a higher participation in the labor force among Chinese women who would traditionally take on theis caregiver role (Kaneda, 2006). Kaneda further notes the one child policy which highly favoured sons over daughters, to have decreased the amount of women, resulting in less children looking after elders. This is commonly pitted as the ‘4-2-1’ problem. With no siblings to rely on, the burden becomes heavy with high financial pressures in a highly competitive and populous country. This has resulted in a 63.2% increase in the urban population, in search for better work.
Placement in care facilities may have negative impacts in which Cheng et al. (2011) states that the environment affects old people’s everyday activities and health. Most prominent is the impact on mental health with feelings of isolation leading to depression after relocation (Hesmati, 2016). There is an opportunity to design spaces which are community focused to nurture active participation with each other and their families. The possibility of transforming or adding age friendly design components to public areas such as parks, restaurants and even within the facilities can encourage social participation to decrease the risk of isolation. Increased care can influence happiness levels to achieve greater wellbeing.
Filial piety remains a strong force which may influence the collaborative dynamic when working with anyone older than you (Mak & Chan, 1995). With the recent opening of the free trade agreement and China being Australia’s biggest export market (Myers, 2016), there are strong economic ties. Navigating China’s environment remains the biggest interest field personally, as it is a key influential factor in healthy aging and opens up opportunities for design.
Cheng, Y. et al. (2011), ‘Aging, health and place in residential care facilities in Beijing, China’, Social Science and Medicine vol. 72 pp. 365-372.
Hesmati, A. 2016, ‘The economics of healthy aging in China’, IZA Discussion Paper No. 9713, viewed 2 November 2016, < http://ftp.iza.org/dp9713.pdf >.
Huang, Y. 2003, Chinese cyclists ride past three elderly men from neighborhood watch committees in central Beijing on February 27, 2003, Council on Foreign Relations, viewed 3 November 2016, < http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2013/11/04/population-aging-in-china-a-mixed-blessing/ >.
Kaneda, T. 2006, ‘China’s Concern Over Population Aging and Health’, Population Reference Bureau, viewed 2 November 2016, < http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2006/ChinasConcernOverPopulationAgingandHealth.aspx >.
Mak, SA. Chan, H. 1995, ‘Chinese family values in Australia’, Australian Institute of Family Studies, viewed 3 November 2016, < https://aifs.gov.au/publications/families-and-cultural-diversity-australia/4-chinese-family-values-australia >.
Myers, J. 2016, ‘5 things to know about China and Australia’s economic ties’, World Economic Forum, viewed 3 November 2016, < https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/04/5-things-to-know-about-china-and-australia-s-economic-ties/ >.
Population Reference Bureau, 2012, China’s Concern Over Population Aging and Health, Washington DC, 2 November 2016, < http://www.prb.org/Topics/Aging.aspx >.
Wooa, J. Kwoka, T. Szea, FKH. Yuanb, HJ. 2002, ‘Ageing in China: health and social consequences and responses’, International Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 772-775.