Health and wellbeing in an ageing population

In 1979, the government of China introduced a one-child policy in an attempt to curb a rapidly growing population (Clarke 2015). The affects of this, coupled with a longer life expectancy, is now showing with a predicted quarter of China’s population aged over 65 by 2050 (Clarke 2015). Issues around health and wellbeing in the ageing communities are becoming more apparent and are an opportunity for reform and design.

Filial piety is a cultural norm in China (Liu 2008, p. 412), however, it is increasingly difficult due to only-children bearing sole responsibility, with some needing to live far from the family home to gain employment (Branigan 2012). There is a stigma around aged-care facilities, with most people remaining to age at home (Branigan 2012). To support ageing in place, new dwellings could be designed for longevity, to support a person as they age. Making the dwelling easily accessible, and adaptable for a range of abilities, with an aesthetic for all.

Although people in China are generally living longer, there is a rise in non-communicable diseases and deaths—such as cancers and high blood pressure—that are linked to habits such as poor diet or smoking (Adetunji 2013). Many diseases are largely preventable, however, health literacy is low among elderly Chinese (Wang 2014). As an example, Australia has steadily reduced its rate of smokers over the past two decades through consistent educational campaigns in the form of advertising and health warnings on product packaging (Department of Health 2016). There is an opportunity to create change through targeted health awareness campaigns.


Health literacy is low among elderly Chinese. ‘Shaxi Man’ photograph by T. Quijano, 2011.

Due to longer life expectancies in China, there is an increase in people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with the latter tripling since 1990 (‘State of minds’ 2016). There is a lack of understanding of dementia in China, which has brought a stigma around the disease, and has affected the quality and type of care received by those with dementia (‘State of minds’ 2016). In Australia, a large amount of people with dementia live at home. Recognising this, Moonee Valley Council have taken steps to create an accessible streetscape, not only favouring gentler slopes over stairs, but also recognising the importance of familiarity for those with dementia (Williams 2016). Familiar markers, such as a seat or a historical landmark, can provide navigation tools for those with memory loss (Williams 2016).

There is opportunity to design interior and exterior environments to better respond to the needs of an ageing population. Health awareness campaigns have shown to be effective in Australia, with the placement and duration being key to their success.

Adetunji, J. 2013, ‘First world problems: China’s lifestyle contributes to ill health’, The Conversation, 7 June, viewed 6 November 2016, <>.

Branigan, T. 2012, ‘China faces ‘timebomb’ of ageing population’, The Guardian, 21 March, viewed 6 November 2016,>.

Clarke, A. 2015, ‘See how the one-child policy changed China’, National Geographic, 13 November, viewed 6 November 2016, <>.

Department of Health 2016, Tobacco Control key facts and figures, viewed 6 November 2016 <>.

Liu, F. 2008, ‘Negotiating the filial self’, Young, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 409–430.

‘State of minds’ 2016, The Economist, 20 February, viewed 7 November 2016, <>.

Wang, X.Q. 2014, ‘Population ageing challenges health care in China’, The Lancet, vol. 383, 8 March, p. 870.

Williams, M. 2016, Ageing, dementia and the value of streetscapes, audio podcast, Blueprint for Living Radio National, ABC Radio, 5 November, viewed 6 November 2016, <,-dementia-and-streetscapes/7987400>.

Shaxi man 2011, photographed by T. Quijano, Flickr, viewed 9 November 2016, <>.

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Posted in A: Secondary Research

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