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Legal changes offer seniors new care model

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

Growing understanding

Awareness of legacy support agreements among seniors has gained momentum in recent years, but implementation remains narrowly focused.

According to a survey conducted by Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing about 10 years ago, at least 67 percent of more than 4,000 residents questioned in Beijing, Chongqing, Wuhan, Hubei province, and in Shandong province, said they were willing to accept contract-based elderly care.

Fan said the high acceptance rate is spurred by a sense of security generated by signing a contract that lays out equal rights and equal responsibilities. People are also drawn by having the freedom to choose who will take care of them.

Zhu Ruilei, a lawyer with the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing, said he has attended dozens of law promotion events in Beijing that target the senior population.

"Most seniors have heard of legacy support agreements, and I have helped draft a number of documents, usually for people with no children or whose children have passed away in accidents or have drifted away," he said.

Yao Zhidou, a lawyer at the Jingshi Law Firm in Beijing, said there were usually two motives behind legacy support agreements.

"I once wrote an agreement for a senior who bequeathed everything to his grandson (who would not normally be allowed to inherit), which was motivated by familial bonds. Another case involved an elderly man who gifted his real estate to a caregiver who had looked after him for two decades," he said.

He added that in urban areas, purchasing real estate as an assurance for aged care is gaining popularity.

"This trend can be integrated with a legacy support agreement to tap its potential to relieve the care burden for seniors, which is currently being shouldered by local governments or children," he said.

"Selling an apartment does not sound foolproof, but with an increasing number of nursing homes in urban areas, seniors might be more willing to exchange their property with nursing homes to obtain better services."

However, he noted that the number of legacy support agreements remains extremely low.

"For every 100 seniors who die, probably 10 will make wills and only one or two will choose to write a legacy support agreement," Yao said.

Fang Jiake, vice-chairman of the Tianjin Hetong Elderly Welfare Association, recalled that about a decade ago some elderly people donated their savings to nursing homes to show their appreciation of the caregivers.

"What they did seemed to be akin to the so-called legacy support agreement, compelled by genuine gratitude for the care they had received. But such heartfelt exchanges have been rare in recent years," he said.

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