Putting the ‘Age’ in Agenda: An Action Plan for Innovation

In tandem with China’s accelerating ageing population, a range of health and wellbeing challenges arise. By surveying the issues they face, it provides a framework to understand the dire situations at stake, and to identify opportunities for innovation.


As delineated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), “China accounts for 18% of the world’s blind. …[and] has the largest number of blind people in the world” (World Health Organisation 2016). Parallel to China’s growing ageing population, cataracts and other age-related conditions will continue to grow if preventative action is not taken. As estimated by the Chinese Ministry of Health, the number of those blind from cataract will double, and will exceed 5 million in 2020 (World Health Organisation 2016). Furthermore, China also severely lacks trained eye care doctors.


An urgent need arises to address blindness in China (Lions Clubs International 2016)

Ageing in rural regions

A large disparity exists between the ageing population in rural and urban areas. Congruent to the notion of filial piety, it is expected that the younger generation care for their elders. However, this family structure for elder care has been revitalised, with a large migration of rural youths towards urban areas. This prompts many rural elders to continue working, regardless of functional disability, and leaves many socially isolated and lonely.

This issue is further compounded by insufficient health care systems in China. Age-appropriate care services are absent in rural regions, where most of the elderly live. Additionally, 31% of rural elderly cannot afford medical services (World Health Organisation 2015, p. 23).

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Distribution of health-care across China (World Health Organisation 2015, p. 24)

Chronic diseases

In 2013, roughly 100 million of China’s elderly people experienced chronic diseases (World Health Organisation 2015, p. 11). These include hypertension, stroke, and cancer.

Four prime factors towards chronic diseases include physical inactivity, tobacco smoking, household air pollution and insufficient diet. As surveyed in 2010, 84% of elderly people do not participate in any physical exercise, 56.6% lack a sufficient diet, 22.4% smoke, and 45% cook with unclean fuel (World Health Organisation 2015, pp. 17-18). WHO considers these to be modifiable, and its elimination could prevent 40% of cancers, and 80% of strokes, type 2 diabetes and heart diseases (World Health Organisation 2015, p. 19).

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Factors contributing to chronic diseases (World Health Organisation 2015, p. 16)

These gaps present opportunities for innovation. How can we prevent chronic diseases throughout a person’s lifespan? How can we improve the accessibility of rural health services?

I recently wrote an essay about sport programs in East Germany. Its focus on mass mobilisation programs, such as sporting festivals, could be reappropriated into China’s ageing context. Could we encourage government run mobilisation programs for better health, such as mass Tai Chi?

Sri Lanka’s response to blindness (post B) proposes another model. Could we readapt this initiative to account for China’s large ageing population? Could we extend this service to those in rural regions?

Similarly, P. Moore’s reading discusses the importance of accessibility, especially in ensuring design as an equaliser (Moore & Lee 2015). This is important to keep in mind, particularly when considering the disparity of people across China.

It is also important to consider the factors of designing within a context, especially to ensure its viability. This is brainstormed below.

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A consideration of values and factors within different contexts. This provides a framework when designing in China. It becomes important to ensure our design is both viable and culturally appropriate. 


Cai, F., Giles, J., O’Keefe, P. & Wang, D. 2012, The elderly and old age support in rural China, The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Washington.

‘China’s ageing population in the twenty-first century how shall we respond?’ 2001, Chinese Sociology & Anthropology, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 65-68.

Johnson, M. 2008, Training Socialist citizens: sports and the state in East Germany, Google Books, viewed 9 November 2016, <https://books.google.com.au/books/about/Training_Socialist_Citizens.html?id=pOT4arumP_YC&redir_esc=y&gt;.

Moore, P. & Lee, Y. 2015, Ageing, ingenuity & design, DESIS Network, Hong Kong.

Population Reference Bureau 2010, China’s rapidly ageing population, viewed 9 October 2016, <http://www.prb.org/pdf10/todaysresearchaging20.pdf&gt;.

World Health Organisation 2016, Blindness as a public health problem in China, viewed 9 October 2016, <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs230/en/&gt;.

World Health Organisation 2015, China country assessment report on ageing and health, WHO, Switzerland.

World Health Organisation n.d., The impact of chronic disease in China, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://www.who.int/chp/chronic_disease_report/media/china.pdf&gt;.

Zeng, Y. 2010, ‘Challenges of population ageing in China’, China Economic Journal, vol. 2, no. 3, pp.277-283.


Lions Clubs International 2016, Lions in China, viewed 9 November 2016, <http://lions100.lionsclubs.org/EN/media/touchstone-stories/global-expansion/35-lions-china.php&gt;.

World Health Organisation 2015, China country assessment report on ageing and health, WHO, Switzerland.

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Posted in A: Secondary Research, Uncategorized
2 comments on “Putting the ‘Age’ in Agenda: An Action Plan for Innovation
  1. […] discussed in blog-post A, family is of utmost importance within Chinese culture and for Deliang, his health and wellbeing […]


  2. […] discussed in blog-post A, blindness is prevalent across China. It becomes interesting to see how Sri Lanka has adapted its […]


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