Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Graying of China

China ages at alarming rate
Graying population clouds economic future, threatens major strain on public-welfare system

BEIJING -- The principal's office is now the mah-jongg room.

Classrooms have become bedrooms equipped with bells to summon the nurses. And the clamor of more than 1,000 elementary school students has faded into the shuffle of slippers through the halls.

Four decades after opening its doors in Beijing, the Dongzhimen Elementary School reinvented itself last year as the Three Harmonies Senior Citizens' Home. The transformation reflects a vast and sobering challenge on China's horizon.

"There are very few young students anymore, but more and more elderly people," said Three Harmonies' manager Wang Shuyuan.

A generation after China adopted its unprecedented one-child policy, the world's most populous nation is aging faster than any major country in history.


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