By Mao Lei, People’s Daily

China’s Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) is about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its return to the motherland, and the region now enjoys a favorable social atmosphere where its senior citizens are well loved, respected and protected, receiving meticulous care from the whole society.

Such achievement is made through the cooperation between Macao SAR government and professional non-governmental institutions and the efforts of voluntary workers with various backgrounds and at different ages.

Luo is a 102-year-old Macao citizen who now lives with his 10th child, and his living expenses are shared by all of his 11 children who always visit him in order to spend more time with him. Luo needs auxiliary appliances for movement, but he’s lucid and eats well. His sound health condition even allows him to play mahjong with his children.

Macao SAR government started offering “Subsidy for Senior Citizens” since 2005, as a way to show its solicitude for the elderly. This October, about 90,000 eligible and verified seniors were granted a total of 806 million patacas (about $100.19 million), with each of them receiving 9,000 patacas.

In addition, Macao has also established a series of favorable schemes and systems for the benefit of the elderly, including the Healthcare Subsidy Scheme, affordable housing policy, the Provident Fund Scheme for workers in public services, and the Central Savings System, thus effectively ensuring stable source of pension funds and sufficient support for infrastructure for old-age care.

In recent years, Macao SAR government has actively promoted the construction of barrier-free facilities, according to Alexis Tam Chon Weng, secretary for Social Affairs and Culture of the Macao SAR government.

This year, free cataract surgery and movable denture installation were offered for senior citizens at certain ages, and more such services benefiting the lives and health of the elderly would be rolled out, Tam introduced.

Macao SAR government has always attached great importance to its senior citizens’ demand for continuing education. By launching government schemes including the Continuing Education Development Plan, a learning subsidy for senior citizens and the disabled, as well as senior academies and social service agencies for the elderly, the SAR government has created abundant opportunities for the seniors to pursue further education. 

Cooperating with non-governmental institutions, the Macao SAR government has kept carrying out diversified services and creating increasing opportunities to have senior citizens continue participating in social affairs in their favored manners, noted Tam.

The ultimate goal is to help the seniors enjoy home-based elderly care, actively take part in social affairs, and have wonderful lives, Tam said.

Macao is currently in an aging population. As shown by relevant data, the average life expectancy of Macao citizens has reached 83.7 years so far, and senior citizens aged 65 or above account for 10.5 percent of the total population of the SAR. It is expected that by 2036, this proportion will hit 20.7 percent, making the region a “super aged society”.

In an effort to tackle the challenges brought by its ageing population, the Macao SAR government started implementing the Ten-year Action Plan for Elderly Services (2016-2025) in 2016, to enrich the lives and improve the life quality of seniors through short-term, medium, and long-term policies and services.

Relevant laws have also been introduced by the region to guarantee the protection of interests and rights of senior citizens. In 2009, Macao SAR kicked off the legislation of the Legal System for Protection of Rights of the Elderly, in an attempt to formulate the general framework for the protection of the rights of seniors, integrate existing laws and regulations, and define relevant policies. The bill was adopted by the Legislative Assembly of Macao SAR last year. 

The Legal System for Protection of Rights of the Elderly is considered the “basic law” for the protection of the seniors’ interests and rights, as it integrates all relevant regulations and legal systems concerning interests and rights of the elderly and covers such aspects of lives of the elderly as health, housing, occupation and job, as well as transportation.

It has served as a solid institutional guarantee for the construction of a harmonious society where senior citizens are well taken care of, feel a sense of belonging, and a sense of achievement from doing what they like to contribute to the society.

On the other hand, the process of making the law is also one that popularizes the law, during which the SAR managed to realize better protection of the interests and rights of its senior citizens while making the merit of respect and love for the elderly deeply rooted in the hearts of Macao residents.