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|Care Show ended successfully Meet you on August 2013 in Shanghai|
Last week in Shanghai, experts gathered to discuss geriatric care best-practices and continue the process of defining senior care in China, a fast growing but still fragile industry.
The inaugural Care Show China was organized by UBM and took place on Oct. 24-25 at the Hotel Equatorial Shanghai with nearly 300 delegates and 29 speakers from 15 nations and regions. Topics include policy and regulation, business model, operation management, and IT and technology. Among all the conferences in Asia dealing with senior living, the Care Show was the best attended to date.
Bromme H. Cole, President of Hampton Hoerter China and Chairman of the conference closed day one with a series of insights that are revealing not just for the industries present status but for where it may be headed in the near term. As a recognized industry veteran, Cole remarked, “While there is clearly a mania underway in China senior living, it underscores the eagerness of the Chinese to learn about geriatric care as well as the demographic dynamic. China is searching for a Chinese solution to senior living and not just Western expertise dressed up in a Han. Merely translating operating manuals won’t work and this is one reason why so many Western senior living operators have left China disappointed.” Yan Qingchun, Deputy Director of China National Committee Ageing and one of the Show’s keynote speakers, spoke at length on China’s preparations for the ageing bubble that is confronting the country at present. Mr. Yan reinforced Cole’s basic premise during his keynote by saying, “China is seeking its own model to solve the ageing problem. In the 12th five-year-plan, the government unveiled a new policy to promote ageing at home, multi-generation-living schemes as well as changing the hukou regulation for senior citizens so as to allow them to live with their children and enjoy national healthcare program in the city where their children live.”
The Chinese modern senior living industry, by many estimates, is only a few years old having received its “birth certificate” via special focus in China’s 5th 12 year plan that was issued in 2011. Since then, developers across China have been in a mad rush to build projects. The major difficulty, other than construction quality, has been the lack of geriatric care operations and a fundamental understanding of Gerontology; the critical service component of the business and the underlying science of ageing. Consequently, most facilities in China today are lifestyle developments with little or no care component. Yet, lifestyle or choice-based senior living has been slow to catch on. In his keynote speech, Cole suggested a reason, “Chinese seniors aged 65+ are children of the revolution, civil war, famine…you name it…they have no shortage of traumatic experiences. All of which has made them very thrifty, frugal spenders….even if they are wealthy. Conspicuous consumption is largely the domain of those born after the death of Mao. So, choice-based developments may be still another 10 to 15 years ahead of us.”
But Waterbrook Asia’s Chairman, Kevin Ryan, who has also been in China working the industry for a couple of years already, has a different take. Ryan says, “Waterbrook Asia represents everything the Chinese want and need in choice-based senior living: especially the fundamental ingredient of a real estate model offering strata title (freehold). The failure of much of choice-based senior living to date is that developers were selling leasehold ownership; a decision anathema to the Chinese mentality.” Cole is quick to respond to this with tentative agreement, “True. The real estate model is likely to work, yet the “tipping point” if you will that transforms China senior living from a trend into an industry is the development of “localized” operators who have assimilated and culturally integrated the fundamentals of aged care into an acceptable Chinese context…not just ownership of real estate.” Cole has received critical acclaim for his artful and insightful essays on senior living in China which are published at www.ChinaSeniorLiving.com.
Other speakers echo the enthusiasm which Cole and Ryan have for the industry. Tom Hill, another knowledgeable professional of the China healthcare industry and whose company, Direct Supply, is a manufacturer of durable medical supplies says, “The industry has strong fundamentals and the future is full of opportunity.”