China Focus: Intelligent tech backs up China’s elderly care

Xinhua News Agency | Jul 14, 2019 at 5:11 AM

TIANJIN, July 14 (Xinhua) -- Li Fengyun, 68, scans a QR code on a health examination robot in her community and puts her hands on its arm. After 15 seconds, she receives a detailed health assessment report on her smart phone, including heart rate and blood pressure.

Li has been accustomed to such regular health management since she moved into the community in north China's Tianjin Municipality last year.

"Though it is not a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, the robot gives me some basic guidance so that I better know my health condition," she said.

Many senior citizens have become beneficiaries of the technology that targets the elderly. Sha Ruifang, a 61-year-old Tianjin citizen with heart disease, is among them.

Sha wears a smart watch which can monitor her heart condition at any time. "I did not expect it to play a big role when I was outside," Sha said, adding that she once received a phone call from the back-stage management platform, saying that her heart rate was abnormal.

"I went to a hospital immediately and was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. However, I recovered after taking some medicine thanks to the early treatment," Sha said.

Jin Yu, business operation director of the company that manufactures the smart watch, said the basic functions of the watch included click-to-call linking to the community committee, health management, real-time monitoring and remote orientation.

"The data collected from elderly customers will be gathered at a platform, where our staff will answer their questions and give advice based on abnormal indexes," Jin said.

Meanwhile, the children of the elderly can know the health conditions of their parents in real time by installing an app on their smartphones.

They are also able to set up an "electronic fence" for aged parents suffering from Alzheimer's disease. By preliminarily setting up the reminder time and their routine living areas, users receive text messages or emails if their amnesiac parents go out of an appointed area. The watch makes a sound to warn the elderly people if they leave pre-set safe areas.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, by the end of 2018, the total number of Chinese seniors aged 60 and above reached 249.49 million, and it is expected to surpass 300 million in 2025.

Nursing homes provide only three beds for every 100 senior citizens in the country. The supply of elderly-care facilities lags far behind the demand.

In 2018, the Ministry of Civil Affairs formulated a plan to promote the applications of emerging technologies such as the Internet, Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence in elderly care service.

In Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, the government has handed out 116,000 calling devices with a red button and a green button, which make emergency calls or request daily service such as garbage collecting and in home massage therapy.

Over 84 percent of aged people require community-based services, according to a report from China's aging association in April.

Wang Shujie, president of the Tianjin Silver Industry Association, said the most important thing was to provide high-quality elderly-care services in line with the senior citizens' living habits and individual needs. Practical, usable and easy-to-use technology are optimal for them.

"Smart devices and advanced intelligent technology bring more convenience and safety to elderly people, but family care is irreplaceable and offers them more happiness," Wang said.