In China, a little-known company has started its ambitious career in elderly care. Customers connect to paid services such as telemedicine and emergency (SOS) systems, as well as housekeeping and food delivery services, via a TV-equipped webcam and voice assistant. This smart care system was released just four months ago, and has signed up 220,000 elderly customers in 16 cities, half of which are located in the company's headquarters in Shandong, a rapidly aging province in eastern China.
There are 250 million people in China aged 60 or over. The government estimates that by 2050, this number will climb to nearly 500 million, or 35% of the total population.
Traditionally, the responsibility for taking care of elderly parents rests with their children, but in contemporary China, children have to take care of up to four elderly people, including in-laws. Children often work in cities far from home. There are more and more nursing homes, but for most families, these institutions are too expensive, and from time to time they have been exposed to the problem of elder abuse. Official surveys show that three-quarters of seniors are willing to spend their old years at home.
In April of this year, China issued a specific policy document outlining services developed for the elderly, including smart technology and financial support. The central government and Shandong Province provided subsidies of nearly 22 million yuan and 3 million yuan for the above-mentioned intelligent platforms, respectively.
The current level of encouragement is vastly different than it was 10 years ago. "Why do you do this? What does this have to do with me?" Wang Jie, a 59-year-old entrepreneur, recalls the skepticism of the other side when he asked the local government to try out a mobile sensor. Wang had to go to Canada to experiment.
Today, his company has reached a three-year contract with community organizations and has sold hundreds of sensors in Beijing so far this year.
In other aging economies, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Korea, entrepreneurs are also seizing business opportunities in this industry, selling various technologies from home appliance speech recognition to solitary elderly accompanying robots. But in China, the industry is still in its infancy. (Author Ryan Wu)