Elderly get high-tech assistance

Updated: 2011-10-05 08:09

By Li Yingqing and Wu Jiachun (China Daily)

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KUNMING - High-tech, literally in this case, is helping to ensure the well-being of the elderly, especially those with memory loss.

A global positioning system (GPS) service is aiding the elderly in the Panlong district of Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan province.

The telecommunications service provider, with the support of the local government, launched the GPS tracking service in January to help the elderly, especially those with Alzheimer's disease, a condition that slowly destroys memory.

Huang Haiying, an employee with a local telecommunications company, told China Daily that with the GPS devices, the people who look after the elderly can quickly locate them either online or by calling the service center in case of emergencies.

The system is also connected to the police, hospitals, fire services and community service centers to ensure that the elderly get quick and proper assistance, Huang said.

Experts said that this service could improve the quality of life for thousands of elderly people with Alzheimer's, their families and those who look after them.

Hundreds of people have already been helped by the service this year, Huang said.

Huang said that the system has about 10,000 subscribers and she expects that number to grow 10 times over the next three years. A user pays 25 yuan ($4) each month for the service. A family with an income below the local poverty line can get a 10 yuan subsidy every month from the government.

The local government has spent more than 2 million yuan to subsidize the service to date.

Rao Yuehui, director of the Panlong civil affairs bureau, said that about 90,000 people, or 15.4 percent of the district's population, are more than 60 years old.

He Xiangqun, an official with the Yunnan provincial civil affairs department, said that this means that the population meets international criteria classifying it as an aging society as defined by the United Nations.

Pandong is the first district to launch the service in Yunnan province, Rao said.

By 2010, nearly 12 percent of the province's population was above 60 and the aging population is rapidly increasing. By 2015, the number is expected to reach 14.3 percent.

According to the UN, an aging society refers to one where 10 percent or more of the population is over 60, or 7 percent or more is over 65.

Guo Anfei contributed to this story.

China Daily