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QR code helps lost seniors find their way back home

China Daily | Updated: 2021-11-25 08:39

A police officer displays badges with QR codes in Fushun, Liaoning province, last month. The codes record contact information that can help lost seniors return home. [Photo/Xinhua]

SHENYANG-A simple badge is playing an important role in helping lost seniors return home.

By scanning a QR code on the plastic badge, anyone with a smartphone can reach the person's emergency contact immediately.

"It's efficient and saves effort," said Li Caoliang, head of the Lei Feng police station in Fushun, Liaoning province.

The idea came to Li and his colleagues four years ago when the 44-member police station dealt with more than 200 lost seniors in a year.

The officers spent hours trying to figure out who to call from vague descriptions by the lost seniors. In some cases, the lost seniors had to stay overnight at the station before their families were contacted.

Of the 65,000-plus people in Li's jurisdiction, nearly one in three is over 60 years old.

Some of them get lost because they have illnesses such as dementia, age-related memory loss or Alzheimer's disease.

"Taking a walk is never easy for them," Li said. "They can't tell their identity, address or phone number, and most of them get lost frequently."

Lost seniors can face extreme consequences, such as hunger, dehydration, frostbite, even death, if they fail to access timely aid, he said.

Li's colleagues developed the idea for a QR code with contact information after two months of trials.

The number of lost seniors has dropped to around 30 a year since the QR code was introduced.

"Good Samaritans just help them find their families without asking for our help," Li said.

More than 50,000 badges have been distributed for free, with about half of them for people in other parts of the country.

"I was very interested in this invention because many people in my jurisdiction are elderly," said Zhang Peng, head of the Hongmiaozi police station in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Zhang has ordered more than 100 QR badges.

"For those who know how to use them, they just help the lost seniors get in touch with their families. Or we can scan the QR code and do the rest," he said.

China has 264 million people aged 60 and above, accounting for 18.7 percent of its population, according to its seventh population census conducted last year.

Wang Jiajuan, a deputy to the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, said the innovative QR code ID helps guarantee the travel safety of seniors.

"To build an elderly-friendly society, we should provide suitable living, travel and leisure services for the gray-haired population," said Wang, who has long focused on improving public services for an aging society.

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