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Aging China and its Health Care system — Illustration by TEAMS

Six facts about Aging China and its Health Care system

China has a large unmet needs concerning the older population, creating a sizable market potential.

There is a genuine buzz in the world about the staggering number of aging population, either as entrepreneurs, investors, health care pros, or as people influenced by personal experiences with ailing parents and grandparents. It is a key area of industry most underserved and most in need.

China recognizes that the aging population is a major threat to its future, and its actively working towards reversing the track. Still, the policy change alone is not going to take effect and bring relief to the population aging problem until 2035.

Here are our findings about the topic through a “GLOCAL” (Global-Local) perspective. We hope it can provide more context for designers and clients who are interested in understanding the senior segmentation in China.

1) The Big number: Nearly 35% of the Chinese population will be 65 years old and above in 2050

By the end of 2018, China had 249 million people aged 60 or above, accounting for 17.9% of the total population. (1) That is ten times the population of Australia. This demographic has increased by 8.59 million since 2017, which equals the entire population of Switzerland. At that rate, the aged population is expected to reach 300 million by 2025. By 2050, it is likely to peak at 487 million, accounting for 34.9% of the total population. (2)

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Nearly 35% of the Chinese population will be 65 years old and above in 2050 — Illustration by TEAMS

2) The byproduct of one-child policy

In order to suppress the excessive population growth rate, the one-child policy was published in 1979, valid until the mid-2000s. Therefore, the birth rate and population growth rate decreased, resulting in the current 4–2–1 family structure (four elderlies, one couple & one child). (3) Between traditions, which expect the younger generation to take the responsibility of their parents by default and the dwindling numbers, the younger generation is burdened with the obligation of caregiving. It also causes many “empty-nest” elderlies (lonely seniors live by themselves without offspring) in urban settings.

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Four elderlies, once couple & one child. — Illustration by TEAMS

3) The reform of Senior care: an un-displaced, home-based with community support.

Current 90–7–3 senior care mode launched by government means 90% of senior people could be aging at home, 7% of senior people could be taken care of with support from community and 3% in institution, e.g., nursing home. The majority of seniors are unwilling to relocate from their homes as it puts their family’s reputation at stake. However, this mindset is changing with the millennial generation. The limited resources of nursing homes also deter seniors from choosing that option. (4)

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un-displaced, home-based with community support — Illustration by TEAMS

4) Focus on “disease prevention” rather than “disease treatment.”

180 million of elderly people suffer from chronic diseases in China. It brings about a substantial economic burden. According to the Forward industry research institute, the expenditure on chronic diseases accounts for about 70% of the total health expenditure, which was about 3,244.15 billion yuan in 2016. (6) The CPC Central Committee (Central Committee of the Communist Party of China) and the State Council issued an outline of the “healthy China 2030” plan. (7) It entails different directions to improve citizens’ health status, including building digital health information systems, increase in public fitness programs, improved medical insurance system, etc.) All the above indicates that there is a significant market potential in China around chronic disease management and disease prevention.

5) Growing number of senior internet users.

China has a rapidly developing online infrastructure. Platforms like WeChat/QQ (Social) and Alipay/Taobao (Payment and e-commerce) are integrated into everyday life. According to a report published by CNNIC, by the end of 2018, China had 54 million internet users aged 60 or above, accounting for 6.6% of the total internet user population. China saw a 35% yearly growth of senior users online since 2017. (8) With the advent of time, current netizens aged 40–50 will enter the senior domain, leading to a boom in online presence in the next 20 years.

6) Shanghai pilot solutions for the aging society

Uneven economy development and healthcare resources make Shanghai the fastest aging city in mainland China. Stepping into the aged society in 1979 makes the city the first as well. By the end of 2018, the population of registered citizens aged 60 or above in Shanghai had reached 5.0328 million, accounting for 34.4% of the total registered population (~ 15% higher than average of China mainland). (9) Being the city with the highest rate of aging, Shanghai carried out a series of initiatives, hoping to alleviate some of the challenges.

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Shanghai is the fastest aging city in mainland China — Chart by TEAMS

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TEAMS is one of the world’s leading design agencies. TEAMS is not just a name — it’s our attitude!

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