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Legal changes offer seniors new care model

By Wang Xiaoyu | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-29 09:47


China's aging society has prompted a search for novel methods of elderly support. Wang Xiaoyu reports.

In December 2017, an online post sparked sympathy and provoked discussion about the hardships faced by a growing number of seniors in China.

A short video showed an 85-year-old man in Tianjin's Nankai district taping strips of paper to a bus station stand.

The strips read: "Lonely, strong-bodied man in his 80s. No chronic diseases. Can do housework. Retired from a research institute on a monthly pension of 6,000 yuan ($842). Not going to an elderly care home. Hope a kind-hearted person or family will adopt me and bury me when I die."

Having endured years of loneliness after his wife died and his son moved overseas, the senior had put himself up for adoption.

However, lawyers said that rather than looking for an adoption agreement-currently restricted to people age 14 and younger, but rising to 18 when the Civil Code comes into force next year-the man should have been seeking a legacy support agreement.

The Law of Succession of the People's Republic of China, which came into effect in October 1985, stipulates that a person may enter into a legacy support agreement with an individual who is not a legal heir or with an organization under collective ownership.

The cosignatory assumes the responsibility of supporting the senior and attending to the interment of their ashes after death in return for the right to inherit the deceased person's estate.

China has a rapidly aging population and a falling birth rate. That has resulted in a growing number of seniors considering various methods of elderly care beyond the tradition of depending on their children. Signing a legacy support agreement is increasingly one of the options.

The need for new approaches to senior care is reflected in the country's first Civil Code, which was adopted by the National People's Congress, the top legislative body, on May 28.

The code has broadened the categories of people who can offer support and care in exchange for the right to claim an inheritance. It states that such an agreement can be signed between a person and any organization or individual who is not a legal inheritor.

"Under the new code, nursing homes and charities-both publicly and privately funded-are entitled to sign legacy support agreements with seniors. Individuals who work for neighborhood committees or social organizations are also eligible to receive bequests from people they have looked after," said Fan Lijun, a professor with the School of Humanities and Law at Beijing University of Chemical Technology.

Fan added that by scrapping some limitations, the application of the legacy support agreement system will be bolstered to satisfy the demands of society and facilitate the development of hybrid modes of senior care.

Shen Chunyao, director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the NPC, said the Civil Code has adequately broadened the category of providers in legacy support agreements to meet the different demands of senior citizens and foster the development of the elderly care sector.

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