A team at Stanford University published a neuroimaging study in 2009 (Hershfield, H), found that thinking about yourself in the future stimulates the same part of your brain that becomes active when thinking of somebody else. In other words, we think our future self is another person.
When exploring two issues with the aging population of China, interventions, and solutions related to health and wellbeing within the aging population, it initially appeared to be an outward focused endeavor. An endeavor problem solving for others.
I wish to approach the topic of health and wellbeing of an aging population as a personal issue rather than designing interventions and solutions for a different demographic. I believe an inclusive design approach is relevant. Researching the greater environment around the aging demographic is important.
Before applying Human-Centered design methodology and engaging with this older demographic within China I sought to broaden my knowledge of key issues and key intervention areas that the rapidly aging population of China is facing.
After 36 years of China’s one-child policy, improved health care equaling longer life expectancies (increased from 43 years in 1960 to 75 years in 2013(The World Bank)) and a lack of precedent of issues that may arise from this combination, China is facing an aging problem.
China supplies 27 aged care beds per 1,000 people over 65 years (39/1,000 USA and 53/1,000 Germany). The Chinese expression “Yang er fang lao” translate to “Raise children to provide for the old age”, highlights the fact that the Chinese government relies heavily on the elderly’s kids to care for them. This reliance on family members to care for the aging is a double-edged sword for the government since it causes a shrinking workforce and less tax revenue.
With heavy reliance on affordable sources of labour to drive the manufacturing sector, the shrinking tax revenue combined with a shrinking workforce causes a serious social and economic issues for the Chinese.
Huang Yanzhong, a Senior fellow for Global Health, believes “Ultimately, aging will change the societal intergenerational relationships pitting the economic productive young people against those who are benefitting from social security and medical care payments. A confrontation between workers and retirees will likely arise.” (CSIS)
With increased pressure on the government to care for their aging population and less affordable sources of labour to fund it, combined with a divide between the available workforce and the aging population, China needs to take action to care for themselves in the future.
Lessons can be learned from neighboring countries like Japan, which has the oldest population in the world. Though not all areas are comparable, the slower aging population has allowed the Japanese government more time to prepare and enforce measures (Holder, H, 2014) such as compulsory insurance premiums to over 40’s.
With issues coming from many areas within Chinese society a complicated, dynamic problem area is presented.Though on the other hand, with many key issues, comes many key areas for opportunity and intervention.
-Center for strategic international studies, CSIS, Does China have an ageing problem, Viewed 08 November 2016, <http://chinapower.csis.org/aging-problem/>
-Hershfield, H, 2009, Saving for the future self: Neural measures of future self-continuity predict temporal discounting, viewed 20 August 2016, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656877/>
-The World Bank, Fertility rate, total (births per woman), Viewed 09 November 2016, <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN>
-Holder, H, 2014, Japan’s solution to providing care for an ageing population, Viewed 06 November 2016, The Guardian 2014, <https://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2014/mar/27/japan-solution-providing-care-ageing-population>