|A woman talks with an elderly woman as she trims vegetables while sitting on a chair near a market in Beijing on April 11, 2016. (WANG ZHAO / AFP)|
BEIJING - China had 222 million people aged 60 years or older as of the end of last year, accounting for 16.1 percent of its total population, a senior official announced Tuesday.
China's senior service network incorporates home, community and institution-based care, according to Deputy Civil Affairs Minister Gao Xiaobing. He was speaking at the 5th China International Senior Services Expo, which is being held from Tuesday to Thursday.
Gao acknowledged that improving elderly care services was "a pressing task" in China's building of a moderately prosperous society.
The official vowed to fully open up the senior care service market to help provide services.
By the end of 2015, China had 6.8 million nursing beds for the elderly, an average of around 30.8 beds for every 1,000 elderly people, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
"Coping with our aging population is crucial for development and hundreds of millions of people's well-being," President Xi Jinping said in February, calling for better top-down policies based on current situations and future expectations.
Xi stressed relevant work should be carried out during the 2016-2020 period.
China's share of people aged 60 and above is expected to reach 243 million by 2020. Geriatric care lags far behind demand and varies greatly between regions.
In a separate written instruction in February, Premier Li Keqiang urged authorities to take a scientific approach to policies and suggestions on the aging issue.