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'Mutual supporters for neighbors' assist senior villagers in Beijing suburbs

2024-07-11 10:01:16Source: China DailyAuthor: Wang Qingyun

July 11, 2024 -- Li Yuqing is a native of Zhuanghetun village, in the Shilipu township of Beijing's Miyun district.


Li, 54, is also one of nine caregivers in the village who has volunteered to help their neighbors. Each of them makes regular house calls to 10 older villagers.


Most of the 90 senior villagers live alone and have chronic health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, she said.


The youngest of the 10 villagers Li cares for is over 60 years old, while the oldest is more than 90.


Li said her daily work includes taking their blood pressure, measuring their blood glucose and making sure they take their medicines on time.


Sometimes she also cleans their houses, cuts their hair and nails, buys them medicines and even takes them to the hospital.


One day, around the Spring Festival holiday this year, Li visited an older resident in her 70s and found her in poor condition. The senior had diarrhea and had barely had any sleep the previous night.


Li immediately called in two other volunteers in the village. With their help, she drove the senior to a hospital in the town and got her some medicines. Then Li took her back home and helped her take the drugs.


Another big part of Li's work is simply chatting with her charges.


"Sometimes the older residents do the talking, and all I do is listen. They have all these things they want to share with you," she said.


Li and others like her in the area are known as "mutual supporters for neighbors".


Zhang Lei, who works at the Xiyanghong Elderly Care Service Center, a nonprofit organization responsible for recruiting, training and managing these volunteers in Shilipu, said all 12 villages in the township have their own mutual supporters.


The volunteers are permanent residents of the villages, Zhang said, adding that their houses have been designated as "mutual support stations for neighbors".


"Based on these stations, each volunteer takes care of 10 older villagers who live near them," he said.


The volunteers record the house calls they have made in a WeChat mini app and submit weekly service reports so that the center can follow up on their performance, according to Zhang.


The service center also provides training for the mutual supporters at least once every month by inviting specialists to share with them the knowledge and skills they need to take care of older residents, he said.


Skills taught include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the Heimlich maneuver and helping prevent seniors from falling.


Every volunteer is equipped with a backpack containing items needed to care for their charges, including medicines for treating cardiovascular diseases, glucose meters, sphygmomanometers, hair clippers and nail clippers, Zhang said.


Each also receives a 100 yuan ($13.8) subsidy per month for each villager they take care of.


Miyun has been developing mutual support stations to take better care of older people since 2020. According to the district's government, 287 such stations have been established.