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Open Access 2023 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

5. Longevity Economy, Boundless like the Sea and the Sky

Author : Dongsheng Chen

Published in: The Era of Longevity

Publisher: Springer Nature Singapore


There is an influential resident at Taikang’s retirement community called Taikang Community Yanyuan Garden in Changping district of Beijing, professor Qian Liqun of Peking University. Coincidentally, the campus of Peking University is also called Yanyuan Garden. Professor Qian moved into the community in July 2015 and found his “Peach Blossom Land”. In the five years after that, he concentrated on writing and finished three academic works, two essays and one photography collection.
There is an influential resident at Taikang’s retirement community called Taikang Community Yanyuan Garden in Changping district of Beijing, professor Qian Liqun of Peking University. Coincidentally, the campus of Peking University is also called Yanyuan Garden. Professor Qian moved into the community in July 2015 and found his “Peach Blossom Land”. In the five years after that, he concentrated on writing and finished three academic works, two essays and one photography collection. He wrote more than three million words and published seven books. I asked Professor Qian which of the two Yanyuan Gardens he thinks is better for his research and writing, and he answered that the works he has done in Taikang’s Yanyuan Garden is not only unprecedented in quantity but also in quality. It is his better works in more mature years.
In addition to Professor Qian, there are other residents in the retirement community who rediscovered their identity and value. The 92-year-old Ms. Niu has spent her entire life on architectural study, and after moving in Yanyuan Garden, has picked up her passion in classical Chinese literature. During the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, she became an “internet anchor” to teach Song Ci poem classes “on the cloud”. After the launch of the “Tianwen-1” spacecraft in 2021, Mr. Chen, who has worked in aerospace, gave a lecture on Mars exploration in Yanyuan Garden. The lecture was vivid and professional, greatly uplifting the spirits of the audience. The longevity community of Taikang has become a new platform for residents to achieve their life pursuits.
The vibrant and lively life the residents in Taikang Yanyuan Garden live forms a stark contrast to the old-fashioned retirement life people picture. In the industrial age, senior citizens, after retirement, become pure resource consumers, being pictured as sitting in a rocking chair, basking in the sunlight all day without doing work. The notion has been deeply rooted in people’s minds since William Osler, the father of modern clinical medicine, proposed that work is not for people over 60 years old. However, it is a very different story in Yanyuan Garden. The elderly in the Taikang community enjoy a full retirement life and even open a new chapter in their life of value recreation by sharing their wisdom and experience. This has inspired me to rethink the division of life stages. In the era of longevity, traditional ways of defining the conditions and needs of senior citizens based on their chronological age no longer apply. We used to define the 20-year-olds as young, 40-year-olds as middle-aged and 60-year-olds as old. However, let us assume that when the life expectancy of humans reaches 100 years and the time of centenarians finally arrives, the categorization would have to change. For example, 40-year-olds may be considered young, 60-year-olds are middle-aged and 80-year-olds are considered to be old. The ability and willingness of the older population to participate in social production are constantly increasing, which will require adjustments to be made in the economic system, social structure and wealth plans in society, leaving far-reaching impacts on economic activities.

5.1 A Bird’s Eye View of the Status Quo of the Longevity Economy

The longevity economy refers to the sum total of all economic activities participated in by senior citizens and the resultant ripple effect. In the mid-to-late twentieth century, developed countries experienced population aging one after another, and the influence of the older population on the society and economy has been increasing daily. Swelling numbers of old-aged persons have not only transformed the existing economic structure but also facilitated the emergence of a distinctive longevity economy, where many industries are required to move in a more elder-friendly direction. The size of the longevity economy has expanded during the process, and the role it plays has become increasingly important in many developed countries and regions. Oxford Economics conducted a study on the size of the longevity economy in the United States and incorporated economic activities by the 50-plus population into the analysis. The results show that the activities by the cohort mainly have effects on three levels. The first is the direct effect, which is the value generated by the direct consumption of services and goods by the 50-plus population. The second is the indirect effect, which is the economic value generated upstream and downstream along the supply chain of the services and goods consumed. The third is the inductive effect, which means that employees of the supply chain earn income from direct consumption by the 50-plus population, and the income generates a new round of consumption of goods and services. An analysis of U.S. data in 2015 shows that the value generated by the three impacts amounts to $2.9 trillion, $2.1 trillion, and $2.6 trillion, respectively, so the total size of the longevity economy is estimated to be $7.6 trillion. In terms of the proportion relative to GDP, direct spending accounts for 16% in that year, while the sum total of the three effects accounts for 41%.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) studied spending on various sectors by the 50-plus age groups of the population in the United States and concluded that the size of the longevity economy contributed by them amounts to 40% of the U.S. total GDP in 2018, worthy as much as $8.3 trillion. If it were a country’s GDP, it would be the third largest global economy, coming only after the United States and China (see Fig. 5.1). The European Commission conducted a similar study in its member states in 2015, and the results show that the longevity economy (the economy of the 50-plus population) accounted for 28.8% of the total economy in EU member states in 2015, and by 2025, the number would grow to 31.5%.
The longevity economy will see greater growth in the future. As the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) forecast, by 2030, the contribution of the 50-plus cohort to GDP would rise to $12.6 trillion and further increase to $28.2 trillion in 2050, 3.7 times that in 2018. The longevity economy will underpin the public finances. The data analysis of AARP suggests that taking into account the tax revenues generated by the economic activity by the older population and the resultant activities, the longevity economy contributed $2.1 trillion tax revenues for the United States in 2018. The number is expected to quadruple to nearly $8.3 trillion in 2050. In addition, economic activities of the older population create more jobs, powering sustainable economic growth. In 2018, 88.6 million jobs were directly or indirectly created by older persons in the United Sates, and the number is estimated to increase to 102 million by 2050.
As China begins its age of longevity, the longevity economy is set to embrace greater growth potential. According to the data analysis of the China Research Center on Aging, the market value of old-age industries in China will exceed 100 trillion yuan in 2050, making up one-third of the total GDP. Meanwhile, as responding to the population aging proactively ascends to a national strategy, government agencies have quickly released public policies and detailed implementation measures of elderly care. In 2020 alone, the State Council and relevant ministries released more than 50 documents concerning elderly care, and another 150-plus documents, plans and strategies were published by local provincial and municipal governments. The development of industries that come along with the era of longevity will be a critical part of China’s future economic structure changes.
It is worth mentioning that the potential of the longevity economy has yet to be tapped. In traditional industrial societies, a person’s life is demarcated into three stages: school, career and retirement. However, with the advent of longevity, the ability and willingness of older persons to continue working after retirement grow stronger, challenging the popular preconception that the older population is a drain on wealth and is unable to create more value for society.

5.2 Recreation of Supply and Demand in the Era of Longevity

The birth and evolution of the longevity economy, in its essence, is a new economic form that comes into being and evolves as the older population becomes larger and starts to transform the supply and demand in economic activities. It does not happen overnight; instead, it is a progressive process. In the mid to late twentieth century, industrialized countries became increasingly aging, and a growing size of older population brought about changes on the demand side. As observed in Japan’s case, industries related to inelastic demand of the older population see great development. In this stage, the older cohort simply plays the role of consumers. The advent of the longevity era would inevitably call for the longevity economy to develop into a new and more advanced stage. By then, the older population would be not only consumers but also producers participating in social production.
The older population will transform the longevity economy from both the supply and demand sides. In terms of demand, an increasing number of old-aged persons in the era of longevity will create more demand, fueling the formation and application of new goods and services, especially those adopting technology innovation. This will change the market or even create new markets directly or indirectly, again, creating new demands. In terms of supply, the older population rejoins the labor force after retirement age. They will continue to work or start a business, either earning wages or paying wages, thus creating new supply. Their contribution to economic activities will increase, boosting economic growth. In the era of longevity, we must reject the traditional way of defining older persons’ conditions and needs in work simply based on age.
Despite the transition of roles the elderly will play, another equally important change is that the arrival of the digital age is breaking the barriers that keep the older population from participating in economic activities. As technology advances, a new round of technological progress represented by big data has not just greatly improved productivity and has also created new formats and patterns, such as live-streaming shopping hosts and video uploaders, by integrating with traditional industries, ushering in a new age of digital data. We believe that the digital data age is an enabling force for the longevity economy. It empowers the older population to continue to participate in social production and value creation, thus harnessing their potential human capital value. By doing so, a new demographic dividend dominated by the older population will be created, a third demographic dividend that stands very different from the first two times.
Labor Supply of the Older Population at New Height
In the era of longevity, people’s life expectancy constantly increases, and accordingly, so does their healthy life expectancy. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the life expectancy and healthy life expectancy of the global population in 2019 amounted to 73.5 and 63.5, respectively, an increase of 8.1 years and 6.6 years from 1990. At the same time, improved health has also encouraged the willingness of old-aged persons to work. Many old persons in good health condition wish to continue working after retirement age, and financial benefit is not their sole motive. For example, a study by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch shows that among all the motives, staying mentally active is also an important reason why the elderly choose to work. As a matter of fact, the surveyed elderly who cite “to stay mentally active” is two times that who choose “for money”. This is evidence suggesting that the period of time older persons participate in the labor market will be longer, and the labor supply will be improved in the future. Against this backdrop, there would be a major shift in the role the elderly assume in society, from pure consumers to a dual role of both producers and consumers.
An online platform economy and diverse forms of work will also help the elderly to leverage their strengths in the labor market. In the industrial age, employees sign long-term contracts with employers to work full-time around the clock. In the digital data age, online platforms have become increasingly important, forms of work have diversified, and both enable the older population to better take part in social production. For example, the mobile internet has given birth to flexible forms of work, represented by independent lawyers, independent media influencers, independent designers, live-streaming hosts and self-media bloggers. On top short video platforms, there have emerged a number of middle-aged and even older influencers, such as Grandpa Jigong You Benchang, internet celebrity professor Dai Jianye, Aunt Luo, and Grandpa Beihan, who have distinct characters and build personas vastly different from younger internet celebrities. Many young people have come to draw experience and expertise from them, while many older audiences find content they could resonate with. Some older residents in the Taikang Home Changshou community also own self-media accounts, and the content they create is of much value, such as Ms. Niu with her Song Ci poetry analysis and Mr. Chen with his sharing on Mars exploration we talked about earlier. I believe they have the potential to become emerging internet influencers in the era of longevity.
Flexible forms of employment will become commonplace in the future, which economists refer to as the gig economy, when an increasing number of people do not work full-time, and companies tend to hire independent contractors and freelancers. For older persons, this form of work is more flexible, allowing them to concentrate on where their expertise lies. They could leverage their comparative advantage in professional fields that require higher human capital and richer experience and worry no longer about losing job opportunities because of physical weakness or health conditions.
Technological advances are expected to compensate for the disadvantages faced by frail older persons. In general, compared with younger people, the comparative advantage of older persons lies in their rich knowledge and experience, while their disadvantage is energy and stamina. However, as technology progresses, the decline in productivity as people age will moderate. In some cases, worker productivity might even rise with age. One case in point is BMW. To retain their skillful, experienced veteran workers, BMW remodels the production lines to create an accommodating workplace environment for them to keep working. In 2011, the new production line was put in place in a large new plant in Dingolfing, Germany, a plant entirely run by workers over 50 years old. To adapt to an aging workforce, many physical changes were made online. For example, special smart chairs were installed at workstations to alleviate physical fatigue, and wooden flooring was laid to reduce joint strain.
Management at BMW says that the older-staffed production line is on par with lines in which younger workers dominate in terms of productivity and even gets ahead. This shows that with the right changes, the experience that older persons possess will help them improve productivity. Major automakers such as BMW, Audi and Volkswagen are experimenting on wearable robots called exoskeleton vests, an attempt to increase the productivity and competitiveness of older workers by reducing joint strains and boosting strength. In knowledge-intensive industries, there will be more such cases. Long-term experience and training produces higher human capital, richer experience, hence more valuable employees. The human capital advantage of the elderly will play a larger role in the future, and this will facilitate prolonged participation in the labor market of elderly individuals. Of course, maintaining a high human capital advantage would also require constant learning and updating the knowledge structure to better adapt to future changes.
Harnessing Longevity Human Capital
In the past 30 years, as information technology advances, knowledge has been more readily available, and the efficiency of accumulating human capital has continued to improve. In the future, as technology further develops, there will be many more diverse and efficient ways to obtain knowledge.
The digital data age will enable people to acquire knowledge in an easier way to improve human capital. Technology and industries are experiencing rapid updating at present. In the era of longevity, one might live through multiple industrial and technological innovations in their lifetime, so lifelong learning and constantly upgrading the skills will be imperative. However, the traditional way of education that was born in the industrial age and characterized by imparting knowledge by subject will be increasingly inadequate to meet people’s needs for knowledge and skills in the digital data age. The digital data age creates the problem, but it also presents a practical solution. The old education model is a “one-size-fits-all” approach; however, in the digital data age, people will come up with a new way of learning that integrates online and offline channels and that is tailor-made and well-targeted, based on each person’s real problems and characteristics. The content will extend beyond textbooks written by professional institutions, covering specific skill training, industry know-how education and a package solution to specific problems.
Older persons could better take advantage of human capital accumulated over the years and disseminate knowledge and experience. We have seen that many traditional manufacturers abroad have taken actions such as remodeling production lines and creating an enabling workplace environment to guarantee that skillful and experienced older workers could continue to work. In recent years, China has seen the engineer dividend pay off and release its potential to drive growth. The engineer population that produces the dividend will be the first generation to enter the era of longevity along with demographic changes. The engineer dividend, coupled with the era of longevity, could provide sustained growth momentum for China’s economy. Older persons could start their own businesses, giving full play to their human capital accumulated throughout their lives and creating more value for society. According to studies conducted by Oxford Economics and the AARP, the population aged 50 and over has the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S., nearly twice the rate of those in their 20s. From 2005 to 2015, the 50-plus cohort started nearly one out of every three new businesses in the United States.
After a lifetime of human capital accumulation, the older population has much more knowledge and experience than the younger population. In the American film The Intern, the old man played by Robert De Niro, after his retirement, misses his past work life and decides to return to the workplace. So he becomes an intern for the CEO at a start-up. In the film, the old man, although an intern, manages to help the young CEO deal with a myriad of conflicts and difficulties in her work, life and family because of his life-long accumulation of experience. He ends up being a long-time friend of the CEO, and the start-up has soared. The film underscores the advantage older persons have in human capital and clearly shows that older persons could create value for companies by imparting their knowledge and experience.
Apart from human capital, physical capital such as real estate property accumulated by older persons in their lifetime also provides opportunities for them to participate in longevity economy. As adult children move out of their family of origin, vacant rooms in the house where the elderly live are more than often not put into good use. In recent years, the rise of homestay online booking platforms represented by Airbnb has laid the foundation for the elderly to make full use of their houses to earn more money. Kenichi Ohmae mentioned in the book Low Desire Society that a friend of his purchased a house in Hakone-machi during the bubble economy. The friend stays there for only a handful of days during a year but has to pay high maintenance fees and fixed property taxes. Later, he puts the house on Airbnb to take homestay reservations, which adds an annual income of 900,000 yen for him. With the cost of 300,000 Japanese yen on cleaning deducted, there is still a surplus of 600,000 Japanese yen that could be used to improve his life quality. Old-aged persons are in a better place than younger people in terms of assets, which could help them better adapt to the longevity economy.
The Era of Longevity Provides a Better Consumption Environment for Seniors
In the era of longevity, seniors will also have a significant influence on the economy through demand. First, in the era of longevity, seniors, with a growing proportion in the overall population, will have a larger say in economic activities, which further drives the development of the senior consumer market and provides room for growth for related companies. American scholar Harry Dent pointed out in his book Demographic Cliff that the main trends brought by an aged population are concentrated in ten major areas, including autonomous medical care and health, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, health and life insurance, retirement and financial planning, home maintenance services, convenience stores and pharmacies, medicines and vitamins, townhouses in downtowns, dynamic retirement communities, and RVs, which will in turn propel companies to adapt to new trends and provide better services for seniors.
The above trends have been reflected in the micro behavior of companies. Aeon Mall in Edogawa, Tokyo, Japan, is one such company. This mall was established in 1982. In 2013, to accommodate the aged population, the mall rebuilt the fourth floor into a one-stop experience center for shopping, leisure and fitness for elderly individuals. To receive seniors who get up early for morning exercise, the mall opens at 7:00 am, and the group fitness class starts at 7:15 am. Seniors can choose from various courses. After the course, they can punch in for points, which can be exchanged for gifts. There are also stores for knee pads and walking sticks on the same floor. To improve the shopping experience for seniors, AEON’s trolley has been specially designed. The weight of the trolley is at least 30% lighter than that of ordinary ones. A hook is designed next to the push handle, which is readily available for seniors to hang bags. The food in the supermarket is mostly packed in small portions, with less oil and less salt, which is mainly tailored to the declining appetite of the elderly and their problems of high blood pressure, glucose and lipids. Earphones and mopeds for seniors are also sold there. In addition, the mall has a rehabilitation center that provides targeted services for seniors in need of rehabilitative physical therapy and cognitive assistance. Musical instrument performance rooms and sports rooms are provided for seniors. Music lovers come to learn to play instruments, making up for what they missed when they were young, which in the meantime spurs business of the musical instrument shops nearby. Aeon Mall is a typical case for us to ponder because its transformation is more than a few changes in a shopping mall. Aeon and all its products and services have brought together a large number of companies and people, which reflects the multifold impacts of increasing senior economic activities on the economy.
In regard to the development of consumption, seniors’ ability and desire of consumption will continue to grow in the future. According to studies on the United States and Japan by investment institutions, the consumption characteristics of a country are usually closely correlated to the economic level. When the per capita GDP is less than 5,000 US dollars, consumption is mainly to meet demand, and consumers do not pay much attention to the brand or quality. When the per capita GDP is 5000–20,000 US dollars, it is in the stage of branded consumption, where consumers tend to care more about quality and place more emphasis on brands. When the per capita GDP exceeds 20,000 US dollars, consumption returns to rationality, and people will pursue quality, personalization and cost-effectiveness. This process is quite relevant for China. Previously, we had a stereotype about senior consumers, believing that their spending power is not strong and the effective demand is insufficient. This stereotype may stem from our observation of the older generation, who spent most of their lives in an era of relatively low levels of economic development and material supply. They are prone to suppressing their demand to a certain extent. However, in the future, the new generation of seniors will pay more attention to their own consumption needs. At the same time, due to the accumulation of wealth and the improvement of labor participation, their consumption ability will also be relatively higher.
At present, this trend has emerged in China. A research report by AgeClub, a business research institution focusing on business innovation in the senior industry, shows that retirees born in the 1950s and 1960s have shifted their focus from family to themselves, and they have enough time to develop their own interests and hobbies. Their relatively ample financial reserve allows them to pursue happiness without worries. Not only are they able to accept new lifestyles such as online shopping, but they also show willingness and ability to pay for micro activities such as dancing and calligraphy. According to the “Consumption Upgrade Data of the Silver-hairs” released by Alibaba, 60% of women over the age of 50 buy cosmetics online, and the average frequency of purchases is six times a year. Each year, five silk scarves are purchased per person online for various occasions. Another report released by Alibaba, “2019 National Day Holiday Consumption Report”, pointed out that on the three days before the 2019 Chinese National Day holiday, the number of middle-aged and senior people who went to medical institutions for oral care and cosmetic surgeries nearly doubled compared to 2018. It is safe to say that seniors have shown relatively strong spending power in many fields.
In addition, the adaptability of seniors to information technology will also significantly improve in the future. At present, seniors are often seen as difficult to adapt to information technology. This is because most contemporary seniors are “digital immigrants”, and it is difficult for them to learn and adapt to information technology. However, such adaptability will be greatly enhanced in the future because the next generation of seniors will be exposed to information technology from an early age. This generation can be regarded as “digital natives”, thus leading to a decrease in the cost of learning and adaptation. At the same time, along with the improvement of the overall education level of citizens and the increase in the availability of knowledge, it will be faster and easier for seniors to learn new technologies and to adapt to the new changes in the data age, which helps them to fully express their needs in the era of longevity. In addition, the technology itself will continue to evolve and will be easier for people of all ages to use. For example, non-text operations have greatly reduced the cost of learning new technologies for seniors. According to the first report in the series “The Hidden Value of China’s Aging Society” released by Wavemaker in 2019, in the past three years, the number of Tmall users over the age of 60 increased by 1.6 times, the number of Alipay diamond members over the age of 50 in 2018 increased by 1.6 times, and the number of platinum members increased by 159% over the previous year. An increasing number of seniors have become proficient users of various mobile Internet services.
The data age will comprehensively enhance the ability of society to meet the needs of seniors at all levels. In the 1940s, Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, proposed the hierarchy of needs theory based on human motivation. Maslow’s theory states that our actions are motivated by physiological needs. It is often represented by a pyramid of needs, with the most basic needs at the bottom and more complex needs at the top, namely, physiological needs, safety needs, love and social belonging needs, esteem needs and self-actualization needs. For the sake of simplicity, we categorize the first two as basic needs and the last three as advanced needs. We believe that the data age will better meet both basic and advanced needs of seniors.
In the data age, the basic needs of seniors, such as food, clothing, housing and transportation, will be better accommodated. What stands out most is the fact that patterns of transportation and housing that were formed in the industrial age may change. Access to autonomous driving technology will make travel more convenient for seniors. With the decline in the proportion of the young population, elderly drivers continue to rise in number. However, as seniors tend to take a longer time to respond, driving safety cannot be ignored. According to data from a Japanese research company, as of the end of 2018, there were 5.63 million senior drivers over the age of 75 in Japan, and it is estimated that the number will increase to 6 million by 2020. Traffic accidents caused by elderly drivers continue to increase. In 2018, there were 460 fatal accidents caused by drivers aged 75 and above, reaching a record high. Autonomous driving technology will be an effective solution to this problem.
In terms of housing, smart homes will be more widely used in the daily life of seniors to improve their life at home. Currently, smart homes based on voice interaction have achieved success to a certain extent. With smart speakers as a starting point, traditional home appliances have been transformed into smart home appliances by installing smart switches. Lights and appliances already can be controlled through voice recognition. When seniors return home, the appliances can be controlled via just a few words, which is of great convenience to seniors. In the future, more appliances can be repurposed for the aged. For example, seniors tend to fall asleep sitting alone on the couch, which may cause harm to their health in the long term. The smart couch will monitor the state of elderly individuals. When they have fallen asleep for a certain time, the pressure monitor will set off an alarm and remind them to return to bed.
In addition, the data age can also better address the demands of seniors for entertainment, education, medicine, and care. In the era of longevity, not only will the life expectancy of seniors increase, but their pursuit of a better life and self-improvement will also become more prominent. The service supply for seniors’ spiritual and cultural needs is falling short of the soaring demand. According to data from the China Association of Senior Universities, as of the end of 2018, there were more than 62,000 senior universities and schools for the elderly at all levels in China, with an enrollment of more than eight million students, accounting for approximately 3% of the population aged 60 and above. There have even been cases of elderly people queuing up overnight to grab a slot at the university. In fact, the elderly’s need for entertainment and self-improvement is a major driver for the development of senior colleges. In the data age, access to online courses can better meet the rapidly growing entertainment and learning needs of seniors. Through social networks, they can set up chatting groups to communicate about experiences in classrooms and daily life. Colleges can also use methods similar to video conferencing to break geographical constraints, which can further expand the channels for seniors to fulfill their spiritual demand.
“Breaking the cycle” in the Longevity Economy
From a broader perspective, the concept of the longevity economy goes beyond the senior group. The longevity economy will also trigger a series of economic activities, including financing and education investment in seniors for their pursuit of achievement, which will further expand the radiation of demand from seniors to younger people.
A prosperous longevity economy will not emerge out of thin air but will require efforts from the entire society. Currently, either psychologically or financially speaking, we are not fully prepared for the era of longevity. Taikang and Nielsen Consulting conducted a survey on China’s middle- and high-net-worth individuals. The results show that the average pension fund required by middle- and high-net-worth individuals to maintain a quality life after retirement is approximately RMB 10.6 million, while their own expected wealth reserve is only RMB 4.37 million. The overall pension is significantly insufficient. Therefore, once people reach old age, they have to reduce expenditures and compromise the quality of life, resulting in an obvious “60-year-old phenomenon”; that is, expenditures in pursuit of quality life fall sharply when they turn 60. The survey shows that the average annual expenditure on quality life of 60-year-olds is RMB 53,000, which is RMB 120,000 lower than that of 30-year-olds; the average annual expenditure of 60-year-olds is RMB 220,000, which is nearly 60% lower than that of 30-year-olds at RMB 540,000. However, as the era of longevity gains more awareness, people of all ages will be motivated to work hard to prepare themselves for old age, and such fundraising and other economic activities derived from this will also become a very important part and a solid foundation of the longevity economy. In addition to financial foundations, developing a longevity economy also requires tapping into talent reserves and promoting lifelong study. As we have mentioned before, the life model of “study, work, and retire” will be broken in the future. As people may experience multiple rounds of industrial and technological changes in their lives, they need to constantly update their knowledge reserves to adapt to the ever-changing world. Humans will enter a new phase of lifelong study and continuous self-improvement, and we must prepare for this change in advance. It is conceivable that the new education industry that adapts to the multistage work-study model will be a constant drive for the longevity economy. Revolutions in the education industry are looming. Instead of traditional subjects, people can obtain more comprehensive interdisciplinary knowledge, work experience, industry insights, etc. Online and offline teaching methods will also be better integrated due to the more extensive demand for knowledge at a higher frequency in the era of longevity.

5.3 Pioneers of the Longevity Economy: America’s Retirement Community

In Chap. 4, we discuss why Japan’s longevity economy has yet to reach its full potential. From a global perspective, the United States is an early bird in developing the longevity economy, and its retirement community is the most representative of the longevity economy in the United States. Retirement community-related expenditures take up a large amount of durable consumption for American seniors, similar to houses and cars taking a big chunk on the middle-aged. Therefore, retirement communities are an important window to observe the longevity economy. The elderly care community in the United States started early, and currently, an industrial system covering a variety of service types has taken shape. For seniors who are still in good health, dynamic retirement communities are designed for them to live. The idea of a dynamic retirement community originated from the real estate market and was once considered a segment of the real estate industry. Therefore, its business model is similar to that of the traditional real estate industry. Developers make profits by selling houses after construction is completed. However, unlike traditional residences, the dynamic retirement community also provides targeted supporting services for seniors, such as leisure, entertainment, and shopping, to help them spend their retirement life in a dynamic way. The rise of such communities has provided the huge middle class in the United States with a quality option after retirement. It has upgraded the consumption level of seniors and promoted the development of the longevity economy. The famous Sun City and the Villages are among such dynamic retirement communities. For seniors who are older and may not be able to take care of themselves in the future, there are also communities in the United States that provide various elderly care services, which is called the facility-based community. According to the different levels of living and care services provided, this type of elderly care can be divided into different categories, such as independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing care. If a community includes both independent living areas and professional areas such as assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing, it is called a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). CCRC addresses the growing needs of care for seniors as their ages advance and provides one-stop nursing services for them after retirement. A major feature of this facility-based community lies in the provision of targeted elderly care services. Its business model is distinguished from the traditional dynamic retirement community, which relies on profit from sales of real estate properties. Generally, a facility-based community involves two groups of people: property owners, who obtain profit through real estate appreciation, and operators, who obtain operational income by providing various elderly care services. Of course, some institutions choose to be both.
Overall, retirement communities have become a major destination for seniors in the United States after retirement. According to the data of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), as of 2019, CCRCs that boast more professional elderly care services and reach a certain scale arrive at 3.14 million units, with more than 4 million residents. As the baby boomers in the United States have all passed the 55-year-old threshold, according to relevant data, more than 4 million families in the country will buy or rent properties in dynamic elderly care communities in 2020, and the total number of residents will reach 6–7 million. Therefore, the number of residents in retirement communities in the United States is estimated to be approximately 10 million, accounting for nearly 10% of the total population of 55-year-olds and above in the United States in 2020.
Investing in a dynamic retirement community is similar to investing in ordinary real estate in the United States, and its returns depend on fluctuations in the price of the real estate market. In terms of investment in facility-based communities, the returns come from two sources: one is from asset value appreciation, and the other is from operational services. Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE), an American commercial real estate service agency, calculated the income of these two types of investment in the United States. The results show that the investment income of facility-based communities in the United States is generally higher and more stable. From 2004 to 2018, the average annualized return on investment of facility-based communities was 14.6%, which was higher than that of commercial residences such as apartments, office buildings, and hotels, reaching the highest among all real estate categories. In terms of composition, the investment income of the elderly care community consists of two parts: asset value appreciation and operational income. From 2004 to 2018, the average annualized returns of the two were 7.6% and 7%, respectively. Among them, asset value was mostly related to the overall trend of the American real estate market, which experienced significant fluctuations before and after the financial crisis. The annualized rate of return in 2006 was as high as 26%, but in 2009, after the financial crisis, it nosedived to -9.3%. In recent years, it has remained stable at 7% to 10%. In contrast, the return of operational services stands at 5–7% year round, becoming a stabilizer for investment in American elderly care communities. Compared with other assets, the performance of facility-based communities is generally better. They are more stable than stocks and commodities, and the yields are higher than bonds.
Sun City, A Model of a Dynamic Retirement Community in the United States
Sun City, the earliest and most famous dynamic retirement community in the United States, is located in Arizona, where the climate is hot, dry and sunny, thus the name “Sun City”. In the 1950s, the area where Sun City stood was still a semidesert cotton field. Real estate developer Del Webb saw an opportunity to turn this area into a place for people from the cold north to spend their vacation, so he set out to build a community for seniors. As the dynamic retirement community was not yet a well-known term at the time, Webb initially launched only a small number of community residences, as well as a shopping center, an entertainment center, and a golf course as supporting facilities.
Sun City opened in 1960. Before the opening, Webb had expected that 10,000 people would come to visit, but the turnout was far beyond expectation. On the opening day, 100,000 people came, and the traffic jammed due to the flood of people. Webb also made cover of Time Magazine. After years of development, Sun City has continued to expand. Building on the original Sun City community, Sun City West, Sun City Grand and Sun City Anthem and Sun City Festival were established. As of 2019, these communities boast a total of 105,000 residents.
I visited Sun City in 2010. Upon arrival, I was attracted by its beautiful scenery. In the community lined with trees, you can hear birds chirping and smell the fragrance of flowers. There are many outdoor swimming pools where seniors can exercise or relax on the shore. This is very different from the Chinese nursing homes where what seniors do all day are just eating, taking medicine and sleeping. There are many types of residential buildings in Sun City, mostly detached villas and townhouses, as well as multistory apartments, independent living centers, assisted living centers, care centers, multifunction apartment houses, etc. Detached villas rest close to golf courses, where people can enjoy fresh air, beautiful view, and play golf right outside their houses.
To accommodate the various needs of seniors, Sun City has built a large number of living facilities, including seven entertainment centers, where seniors can go swimming, play tennis and do other activities. There are also two libraries, two bowling alleys, eight golf courses, three country clubs, one art gallery and one symphony hall. Senior activity centers and country clubs are not only large in number but rich in a variety of activities. There are gyms, computer rooms, and handicraft rooms in the activity centers. During our visit, we saw assorted event promotions posted all over the wall in the community, including dance, music, and painting. There was also a calendar marked with events held in the community that month. At the same time, Sun City and local universities have established the Lifelong Study Institute to provide learning opportunities for elderly individuals. In Sun City, senior people can enjoy leisure time, entertainment, and shopping, which is in striking contrast to the condition of Chinese elders who are struggling over trivial issues in everyday life. It gave me a great shock. On the wall of the corridor in Sun City, it reads “We Build the Place, You Build the Life”, which gives a vivid description of the senior’s life in Sun City.
To address the medical needs of seniors, Sun City has endeavored to provide quality medical services for the elderly right from the very beginning. Construction of the hospital in the community started in 1969, and the first two buildings opened in 1970. Subsequently, the hospital continued to expand and increase services and facilities to facilitate medical services to seniors. In 2008, the hospital completed a major upgrade and expansion to improve care in and out of Sun City. At present, Sun City’s hospital ranks among the top 100 hospitals in the United States, and its medical facilities are also first-class in the country.
Sun City’s dynamic lifestyle touches not only the senior residents but also the staff. Sun City has a wall of honor specially set up for employees, on which the outstanding employees of the month and the year are commended. The photos of the outstanding employees of the year are placed in the center of the commendation wall. The staff told me that the employees here have a strong sense of honor, and they do not regard their work as a nine-to-five job. Instead, they are committed to dedicating their life to the community. The residents here have also established a close relationship with the staff. In years of mutual companionship, this relationship has gone beyond the one between service provider and receiver. They have gradually become friends and family. The seniors appreciate the service provided by the staff, and the staff also obtain a sense of value and satisfaction from this job. When I visited Sun City, it had been in operation for 50 years since 1960. The operators have come to the third generation. Children of some staff members also grow up in the community and eventually choose to continue working there. To them, this is an honorable and worthy job.
The Dynamic Villages
In addition to Sun City, another exemplary retirement community in the United States is the Villages in Florida. Florida is located in the southern part of the country, with plenty of sunshine and a pleasant climate, which makes it an ideal destination for retirement. Harold Schwartz, founder of the Villages, acquired a large piece of land at very low prices in the 1970s and was therefore able to sell the property at relatively reasonable prices. In the 1980s, following the model of Sun City, his son Gary Morse began to build a retirement community here, and the community also provided recreational and medical facilities, which all contributed to the growing population of the Villages. By the end of 2018, the population of the Villages had exceeded 120,000, among whom approximately 30% are seasonal migratory retirees, and the other 70% are permanent residents. Dwellers there are from all walks of life, including engineers, computer scientists, designers, and architects. Data show that in 2018, the average annual income of Villages’ residents was 43,000 US dollars, which was higher than the national average of 36,000. There are four large activity centers, 390 small communities for independent living, and more than 680 assisted living or memory care beds and over 250 professional nursing beds.
In 2017, I visited the Villages and was warmly received by the management board. The community is run by the Morse family, which is well known locally. When we visited, Harold Schwartz, founder of the Villages, and his son Gary Morse had passed away. Schwartz’s grandson and two granddaughters took over the community’s operation, sales, design and construction. The fourth generation in the family has also engaged themselves in community work. All members of the management board dressed casually, and it was difficult to distinguish them from the residents and staff of the community.
On the very day we arrived at the Villages, we were invited to attend routine event-polo matches. Polo fields are built in the Villages, where polo matches are held, and the senior residents can watch the game. Since the founding family loves polo, holding polo matches has become a tradition in the Villages. While watching the game, I also learned that one of the players who was riding a horse and wearing a helmet turned out to be the child of one of the management members. I was struck by how integrated it was between community operators and residents.
The next day, my team went to the office of the Villages for a meeting. The Villages are a huge community covering three counties, with an area of 100 km2. There are 36 golf courses in the community. The paths between the golf courses run diagonally, dividing the whole community into different areas. The staff here told me that golf is a very popular sport in the United States, and playing golf on a regular basis is an ideal retirement life for many Americans. Seniors in the community are full of vitality. They are active drivers, and many choose to drive a golf cart, which is both economical and safe. There are 80,000 golf carts in the whole community. The residents are active on various golf courses and clubs during the day. At night, they sing and dance in the three central squares in the community. Every day, from 5 to 9 pm, they have fun and enjoy different activities.
We learned that the Villages also have well-established medical facilities, including a small hospital with 50 beds, a general medical team with 5 clinics and nearly 50 doctors. UnitedHealth, an American medical insurance company, set up three medical service centers in the community. The residents of the Villages have formed a self-government mechanism by establishing committees to handle public affairs and formulating the code of conduct to maintain public order. This bottom-up approach can also be seen everywhere in everyday life. Residents spontaneously establish various clubs, the total number of which stands at approximately 3000. They also organize activities on a daily basis to enrich residents’ lives, which is helpful to reduce the sense of loneliness and improve the happiness of seniors.
In addition, the Villages run many media platforms to report the affairs of the community and strengthen the sense of belonging of the residents. The circulation of newspapers in the community reached 56,000, and 93% of the residents could read the newspapers issued on the same day. The community also publishes a monthly magazine documenting urban life, with a circulation of 43,000 copies, covering almost every household. The city’s TV station can reach 130,000 rooms in the community, and the radio station broadcasts daily city news. In recent years, with the rise of online media, the Villages has also established various social media platforms of its own. I was deeply impressed. Given the right platform, the amount of energy and vitality that seniors can release is tremendous.
The Villages have also played an important role in promoting the local economy. In an interview with Bloomberg in 2018, local government officials said that the Villages have become the engine of the local economy in terms of employment, local economy, and tax income. In the future, as more residents move in, the government also plans to sell more land to the Villages, and the planned area may reach 2000 acres (approximately 8 km2). It is fair to say that the Villages have developed a longevity economy that fully meets the various needs of the elderly and served as a stimulator in the local economy. Many seniors will sell their properties after retirement and enjoy their old age in sunny places such as Florida or Arizona. This desirable lifestyle, from a commercial point of view, can be a kind of ultimate consumer product targeted to seniors.
Erickson, an Exemplary Case of CCRC
Erickson Senior Living, founded by John Erickson in 1981, has now become a representative CCRC provider in the United States. Erickson manages more than 20 communities in 11 states (Colorado, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts, Michigan, and North Carolina) in 2021, with more than 15,000 employees serving over 27,000 residents, of whom more than 3000 require continuous care.
Unlike Sun City, which mainly relies on house sales for income, Erickson charges an entry fee plus a monthly service fee. Most residents sell their existing houses to cover the entry fee and pay a monthly service fee using their social security and pension. Erickson has not disclosed its overall financial data, but its operations at two CCRCs in Maryland and Pennsylvania are publicly available. Data show that from 2018 to 2019, the EBITDA ratio (the ratio of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization to operating income) of the two CCRCs mostly stood between 15 and 22%, and the overall operating conditions were relatively stable.
Erickson boasts an edge in medical services. It provides seniors with a full spectrum of support and care services, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, and more. Each resident is assigned a social worker in the community who, on a regular basis, reports to them, introduces them to community resources, completes risk assessments, and implements crisis intervention. When a resident’s health deteriorates, the social worker will help the resident access higher-level care services available in the community. When residents need services such as memory care and professional nursing, Erickson will also give professional training for nursing staff to provide tailored services to seniors with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease and people who are completely unable to take care of themselves. In addition, Erickson has a security team with Emergency Medical Responders (EMR) certifications to respond to emergencies in a timely manner. The Erickson community has a 24-h security and emergency response service, and the average response time of first responders is approximately 4 min, which is conducive to reducing accidents among senior residents.
Like all types of dynamic retirement communities, Erickson offers a variety of service facilities. The community is well equipped with restaurants, fitness centers, swimming pools, convenience stores, barber shops, libraries, and creative art studios. Well-designed facilities and attractive common areas make it easy for community members to stay active, engaged, and healthy. The community also provides a shuttle service for its residents to travel between various facilities within the community.
The Erickson Senior Living publishes an original tribune dedicated to seniors, covering recent news about seniors, as well as a variety of feature articles, columns, blogs and contests. The newspaper, which targets retirees in more than a dozen states and has a circulation of approximately 500,000, has enriched the spiritual life of seniors. In addition, Erickson plays an active role in philanthropy and social service. In 2017, community residents raised a total of 3 million US dollars in scholarships to help more than 1400 students across the country; in 2017, more than 9000 volunteers provided services benefiting dozens of local charities and organizations.
Erickson has had some ups and downs along the way, but its model is still pretty successful. In 2009, Erickson filed for bankruptcy protection due to the impact of the financial crisis and was later acquired by Redwood Capital. After the financial crisis, Erickson overcame the difficulties with its strong operational service capabilities accumulated over the years, returned to the track of accelerated development, and further expanded its operation. It has now become the largest CCRC operator in the United States, with an average of more than 1000 beds per community, much higher than the national average of 200 beds. Larger communities help reduce fixed costs, allowing Erickson to offer more elderly care programs and facilities than smaller competitors, thereby attracting more residents. From this perspective, large-scale operations are very important for elderly care communities.
One thing stood out to me when I visited Erikson. John Erickson, founder of Eriksen Senior Living, was giving me a tour around the community, and many residents greeted him and said, “Thank you for providing us with such a wonderful senior life.” It struck me that Erickson, as a market-oriented private company, is so appreciated by the residents of the community. Business should bring progress to human society and improve people’s living standards and quality of life. Only in this way can it truly become a great cause.
Another Look at the American Retirement Community Model
On the whole, as an important representative of the longevity economy in the United States, the elderly care community in the United States started earlier and provides various services for seniors. It’s safe to call it a typical sample of the longevity economy. The dynamic retirement community provides a new way of retirement for seniors, while the CCRC provides a one-stop solution for the living, medical and nursing needs of retirees. In China, where the era of longevity is approaching, the growing aged population has created huge demand for elderly care, which also means that the retirement community will have vast room for growth. However, it should be noted that the American retirement community is not equivalent to the entire longevity economy. Although such communities have addressed some of the problems of seniors in the late industrialization era, many areas are in need of reflection and improvement.
The longevity economy segment, as we have observed in the current retirement community, could be a dynamic community or a CCRC, all emphasizing quality life, entertainment, and medical care. This kind of consumption creates a sense of superiority. People may feel that their years of hard work have finally paid off. Such a booming model is also inseparable from the strong economic strength, large size of the middle class and the pension system of the United States. The arrival of the era of longevity will pose a challenge to this traditional model. We said in our previous analysis that, on the one hand, people’s life expectations have been greatly extended, while pensions are at a risk of depletion. Relying solely on the accumulation of wealth may not be enough to support a quality lifestyle in old age. On the other hand, quite a number of seniors are not willing to be completely segregated from society after retirement. Instead, they hope to continue to participate in social production and value creation. At the same time, the data age will also change production methods, expand the territory of the longevity economy, drive the upgrade of the longevity economy, and provide the possibility for seniors to continuously participate in social production and wealth creation. As such, we believe that the future retirement community may become a new type of community that combines consumption and value recreation.
The site selection and construction of American retirement communities are also worthy of further reflection. These communities are often located far from the city and equipped with comprehensive facilities. In addition, most of the residents are over 65 years old. Over time, it is easy to form a relatively closed internal culture. For residents who are unwilling to be completely separated from society, especially city life, living in a community means a trade-off and compromise. We believe that elderly care communities should seek a certain balance between an independent location and maintaining contact with society. A better natural and cleaner living environment is important to seniors. However, the community cannot be too far away from the city, as separation from family and the social environment they were familiar with may lead to self-isolation.

5.4 China’s Experiment on the Longevity Economy: Taikang Community

Compared with the United States, China’s longevity economy is still in its cradle. However, as an emerging market, China has a larger potential for growth. With the boost of the senior population in China and the increase of their wealth, the market demand of seniors has continued to expand, triggering the rise of senior consumption in various industries. The market has turned its eyes to seniors. Although an increasing number of senior consumers are pouring into the market, the deepest needs and pursuits of seniors have yet to be discovered. What kind of life do seniors truly need and desire? To enter the elderly care industry, in 2007, Taikang launched a global study that lasted for years. What we saw in the elderly care community in the United States completely uprooted our perception of traditional senior life. These communities provide almost all the services and products that seniors need in life. The senior-oriented approach is reflected in every aspect of community operations, and seniors can start a new life in these communities. After returning to China, Taikang started the CCRC elderly care community in China. We analyzed every detail we saw from Sun City, the Villages and Erickson and integrated the American longevity economy into local communities in China.
Taikang’s first longevity community, Yanyuan, was launched in Beijing in 2015, and Shenyuan opened in Shanghai a year later. These two communities were early comers in the entire domestic elderly care industry. After more than five years of operation, they have become mature communities. As of the first half of 2021, the number of residents, whose average age is above 80 years old, exceeded 3000. They come from all over the world and from all walks of life, each bringing a different life story, and the age difference of the residents surpasses 40 years. The senior community presents no less diversity or vibrancy than young communities such as university towns and the Silicon Valley. In such a place where wisdom and experience are gathered, we can better accommodate the needs of seniors. At the same time, we have brought out their potential for value recreation in various ways and jointly explored a new supply path for seniors in the longevity economy. Taikang Community, which is under Taikang Insurance, is practicing a new idea of elderly care and has become a pioneer in developing the longevity economy in China, which will be different from the American version. Let us explore the possibilities of the Chinese longevity economy through a detailed introduction to Yanyuan and Shenyuan.
Tailored Services to the Needs of Residents
Yanyuan and Shenyuan are the two communities with the largest scale and the largest number of residents that Taikang has put into operation. At present, they have been developed into the flagship communities of Taikang (Table 5.1). Scale is very important for the operation of a longevity community. On the one hand, a large-scale community can help reduce operating costs and ensure stable and continuous operation of the community. More importantly, a sufficient number of residents can amplify community services and form a miniature society that brings a sense of belonging to seniors. The feeling of “home” is the key to distinguishing the dynamic senior community from traditional nursing homes.
Table 5.1
Basic information of Yanyuan and Shenyuan (as of May 2021)
Number of residents by services
Date of opening
Area (m2)
Medical services
Independent living
Assisted living
Professional care
Memory care
June 2015
Level 2 rehabilitation
July 2016
Level 2 rehabilitation
Source: Taikang Insurance Group
Note The construction area of Yanyuan Garden in the table includes the above-ground construction area of Phases 1–3, and the construction area of Shenyuan Garden includes the above-ground construction area of Phases 1 and 2
In terms of the design and site selection, Taikang’s longevity communities, including Yanyuan and Shenyuan, have their own set of standards, such as the location should be in the suburbs of the city, clustered around large-scale vitality centers. However, the most important feature lies in the integration of medical care and elderly care. When we conducted market research on China’s elderly care industry in 2007, we noticed that for elderly individuals, elderly care cannot be separated from medical care. Most of the time, what seniors need most is not the high end technology to treat severe cases but the timely medical response and meticulous medical care. Therefore, when the design of Yanyuan was off to start, referring to the idea of equipping hospitals in dynamic elderly care communities such as Sun City and the Villages, we established a specialized rehabilitation hospital for seniors next to the community to provide its residents with timely and direct medical services.
It may not occur to many people who could realize that in the era of longevity, the span of old age is very long, and 40 years could mean two generations apart. At different stages of physical and mental health, seniors may have completely different needs for medical care services, which the current social medical system and home-based care model are not sufficient to facilitate. Yanyuan and Shenyuan introduced the CCRC model, providing four service categories, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, and professional care, to meet the specific needs of residents at different stages in the community. In addition, Yanyuan and Shenyuan have come up with various originating services. It is safe to say that such services are tailored to senior needs in the era of longevity.
The visit to the United States opened up our horizons. Taikang has established its own values and solutions in answering the question of what kind of life seniors desire. We divide the needs of Taikang residents into basic and advanced demands, which are also in line with the five levels of Maslow’s demand system. The longevity community allocates resources and provides customized services. The key to devising a more dynamic and healthier lifestyle and giving full play to creativity and self value for seniors lies solely in the accommodation of their diverse demands.
Nutritious Food
A nutrient diet customized for seniors is the most basic item in the elderly care service. Both Yanyuan and Shenyuan have several characteristic restaurants integrated into the local food culture, and the menus are designed by professional nutritionists in the community. The community provides more than 50 varieties of dishes every day, and more than 30 dishes are refurbished every week. For residents with chronic diseases and residents in care areas, Yanyuan and Shenyuan provide targeted catering services, such as low-salt, low-sugar, low-purine, and easily digestible food, tailored set meals and delivery services. In the catering management system of the entire Taikang Community, more than 4000 dishes covering cuisines from many countries and regions are included in the menu. With a large number of dishes being prepared multiple times a day, Taikang is establishing a more advanced approach to senior meals in China.
Food culture is not a small issue for Taikang. All communities should integrate food into the local culture. If golf courses are the cultural symbols of Villages and Sun City, then food will be the symbol of the longevity community in China. The catering centers of Yanyuan and Shenyuan continue to carry out various food events, such as food and cultural exchanges, festival activities, and nutrition lectures in the community (Table 5.2). Every festival is an aftertaste of culture and memories. The quarterly rotation of chefs between communities allows residents of Yanyuan and Shenyuan to taste the most authentic cuisines of Beijing, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Sichuan, and Hubei. On the one hand, these activities can help residents manage their own nutritional intake and healthy diet; on the other hand, they also strengthen residents’ perception of “home” in the community. On New Year’s Eve in 2019, 66 tables of “family dinners” were held in Yanyuan. Taikang residents, their families and staff gathered together to celebrate the festival. The bustling scene at the dinner table is still fresh in my memory. If seniors are willing to invite their family members to have a New Year’s Eve dinner at Taikang Community, it can be regarded as the utmost trust and encouragement.
Table 5.2
Yanyuan’s various dietary activities (first half of 2021)
Solar term festival
Food dedicated to traditional solar terms
Spring festival (the Chinese New Year)
Introduced smoked food originated in Beijing, adding festivity of New Year. On New Year’s Eve, six themed events were held during the Spring Festival serving food with regional characteristics
Lantern festival buffet
Held a “Chinese and Western Fusion Buffet Lunch”, allowing residents to experience fresh food through on-site production
Catering to tastes of more residents, a barbeque buffet was held with consideration of the environment
Traditional festivals
provided residents with corresponding festive food, so that residents can feel the joy of the festivals including 2nd Feb of lunar calendar, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Tomb-sweeping Day, Labor Day, Dragon Boat Festival
In summer, stewed dishes are served, while in autumn and winter, soups are served, because temperature can be maintained for a longer time and residents can enjoy the food in mouth and feel the warmth at heart
Thai food
Residents interact with chefs on site. Chefs would explain food culture, nutritionists introduced nutrition ingredients, and residents could watch cooking performances on the spot
Food festival
Food festivals launched in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China and the 6th anniversary of Yanyuan
Lectures on nutrition
Guiding residents to choose nutritious food and understand daily dietary planning
Sunny kitchen
Get a closer look at the daily management, food safety, and standards of their kitchen to ensure residents of the quality and safety of food
Food for care areas
Meet the needs of elderly in the nursing area, live interactive performances, and experience the joy of food on the spot
Source: Taikang Insurance Group
Three Basic Guarantees
In addition to a nutritious diet, we believe that for elderly individuals, another basic demand is the provision of guarantees, which mainly include the guarantee of daily life, physical health and property security.
In terms of daily life, the four categories of CCRC provide different levels of guarantee for residents with various health conditions. Most of the seniors in the community are in the condition of independent living, but there is a blind spot. When seniors can take care of themselves, what kind of assistance do they need in their daily life? That is why Yanyuan and Shenyuan have arranged a “butler” for each resident, who is responsible for responding to residents’ demands around the clock. They are also resource coordinators, risk monitors, and guides and protectors for residents’ living networks. Taikang residents affectionately call these “butlers” their “children”. From the trivial work of butlers (Table 5.3), we can catch a glimpse of some realities that are often overlooked in seniors in China: they need frequent visits and safety confirmation, companionship and communication; they need someone to answer their questions, to accompany them to the hospital, and to relieve them of heavy physical work. Yanyuan and Shenyuan have great advantages in solving these problems. They replace decentralized services with a centralized approach and provide more efficient and comprehensive daily life assistance for seniors. In addition, Yanyuan and Shenyuan also provide “1 + N” services, where butlers and social workers assume the responsibilities of case managers and coordinate with multidisciplinary professional teams to proactively identify and intervene in the problems encountered by community residents. In Yanyuan, dozens of cases of this customized program are implemented every quarter of the year.
Table 5.3
Partial service items and frequency of the Yanyuan Butler program (Q1 2021)
Butler service
Butler service
Emergency assistance
3.3 times/day
Response to pull string alarms
8.52 times/day
Medical escort
5.6 persons/day
Consultation and assistance
100 + times/day
Receipt of delivery/distribution of newspaper
830 pieces/day
12–15 persons/day
Daily visit
80–100 persons/day
Family visit reception
55 persons/day (160–170 persons during holidays)
Source: Taikang Insurance Group
In terms of medical services, the rehabilitation hospitals in Yanyuan and Shenyuan have established electronic health records for more than 3000 Taikang residents, among whom nearly 70% suffer from chronic diseases and 50% suffer from high blood pressure. The proportions increase as the residents age. For chronic diseases, the public medical system in China puts most of its resources in diagnosis and treatment, instead of prevention, health care and rehabilitation, the latter of which, however, are precisely the key to cost reduction and pain relief of patients. Rehabilitation hospitals in Yanyuan and Shenyuan set up a triple-tier defense system: first aid, chronic disease management, and rehabilitation, which covers the whole chain of physical examination, prevention, health care, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. The community also adjusts its health management service according to residents’ physical examination conditions. The chronic disease management team is composed of full-time family doctors, butlers, and nurses in the community hospital to provide daily chronic disease care for senior residents. In Yanyuan, the rehabilitation hospital has established a 24-h on-call system. In 2020, it provided 31,000 outpatient services to community residents (mainly medicine prescriptions for chronic diseases), responded to nearly 1000 emergency calls, and discharged 499 residents. Yanyuan also cooperated with the nearest tertiary hospital to establish a green channel to facilitate the timely transfer of patients to the hospital. In Shenyuan, the rehabilitation hospital implements a two-level family doctor system. For every 300 residents, the community assigns a general practice family doctor who is responsible for the health management of the dynamic area, as well as a part-time doctor who mainly manages the residents’ emotional and psychological issues. Ninety percent of low-risk residents are followed up more than once every 3 months, 7% of intermediate- and high-risk residents are followed up more than once a month, and 3% of high-risk residents in the acute phase are followed up more than once a week. In the era of longevity, health is no longer just about disease but about how people maintain their ability to live a normal life. The services provided by the longevity community for residents cover diet, safety, physical and mental health care, and daily assistance. In the era of longevity and health, medical care has shifted its focus from the treatment of diseases to health protection during the whole life cycle.
It is worth noting that during the epidemic in 2020, with the joint efforts of community staff, residents and their families, six senior communities, including Yanyuan and Shenyuan, ensured zero infections among the 3400 residents, making it the safest “fortress of life” during the outbreak. Some family members had brought seniors home before the Spring Festival. When the pandemic broke out, they brought seniors back to the community before they received the notice of lockdown. This is also the best demonstration of how the longevity community provides all-round protection and lives up to the trust of the residents.
In terms of property protection, professional institutions carry a great responsibility, and the value they can create for seniors is also more considerable. Chapter Three has analyzed the features of the financial behavior of seniors. Although they hold a large amount of money for retirement and medical care, their ability to make sound financial decisions independently is impaired, and their ability to identify various new types of financial fraud is also declining. When conducting research on Taikang residents, we can feel the residents’ strong financial needs and concerns about property. The top three concerns include financial investment risks, physical inconvenience and impaired memory when handling financial services, as well as disposition of property when accidents occur. Thanks to Taikang’s years of intensive development in life insurance, long-term and stable investment is Taikang’s expertise, and the self-operated longevity community has created a platform to serve the comprehensive financial demands of seniors. Taikang’s asset management subsidiary established offices in Yanyuan and Shenyuan in 2015 and 2016, respectively. It provides lectures on financial knowledge for seniors and assumes the major responsibility of protecting the “wallets” of residents. In the meantime, they offer financial options with relatively low risks and stable returns. In terms of service support, investment professionals in the community provide offline services on a regular basis, and community staff also help residents carry out online financial activities to ensure their property’s safety. As of April 2021, Taikang Asset Management has launched more than 20 wealth management products for residents in Yanyuan and Shenyuan, with an asset scale of nearly RMB 70 million. It is Taikang and all its subsidiaries’ wish that its residents can enjoy a longer, healthier, and wealthier life.
Recreation, Study, Social Interaction and Spiritual Home
For seniors, spiritual life is as important as physical and mental health. If physical and mental health is about maintaining the basic quality of life, then spiritual quest is about pursuit of happiness. When we visited the United States, a staff member of a elderly care institution said, “We must maintain the fire of life in seniors.” We can see from scientific research and numerous cases that when the needs and pursuits of seniors are suppressed, their physical functions and cognitive abilities will decline rapidly. We often hear that seniors use “old” as an excuse to refuse new things. Self-abandonment in old age is a long, helpless and sad process. As a leader in the elderly care industry, Taikang is responsible for encouraging seniors to study for life and to try new things with a brave heart. We position the longevity community as “a warm home, a quality medical care center, an open university, an elegant dynamic center, and a home for the minds and spirits of seniors”. The purpose is to ensure the physical and mental health, and on top of this, to meet the higher and richer spiritual pursuits of seniors.
Driven by this ideal, Yanyuan and Shenyuan both established Letai College, with the philosophy of maintaining a nourished mind, self-cultivation, family regulation, self-achievement, and prospects for the whole world. The college launched more than 100 quality courses for Taikang residents, which allowed seniors to promote physical, mental and social development in their study. In the first quarter of 2021, Letai College in Yanyuan offered as many as 32 courses, four of which enrolled more than 100 students (Table 5.4). These courses, updated on a regular basis, encourage residents to study for life, keep up with society’s development, and make continuous progress. In addition to daily courses and lectures, residents have also organized dozens of interest clubs and hobby groups, where they can make friends with people of similar interest. The community has enriched the life of residents through various festivals, outings, and special events. To ensure that the activities are suitable for seniors, the community has specially designated a position, which is the cultural and recreational event planner. Since the community opened five years ago, more than 550 events of various types have been held. The residents often say, “Open the door, and you will see smiling faces. Wake up in the morning, and it could be just another festival.” Social isolation is one of the culprits for the decline in the physical function and cognitive ability of seniors after retirement. The longevity community helps residents integrate into the community, improve their mental health, and live a healthy and happy life by creating an all-weather study and activity atmosphere. In the community, many residents started their second stage of life and participated in Letai College and Letai Club, where they can go modeling, singing, playing piano, photographing, and swimming. The Yanyuan croquet team’s average age is over 80 years old, and the male and female coaches are above 90 years old. They enjoy the game on the winter court, and their healthy and positive state is very encouraging.
Table 5.4
Courses of Yanyuan Letai College (Q1 2021)
Chorus and Vocal Class, Piano Class, Sudoku Class, Smartphone Application Class, Yanyuan Lectures, Photography Class, Music video class
Chinese Music Record, Documentary, Selected Movies, Weekly Concert, Ballet
Sports and health
Sports and fitness open classes, anti-fall courses, Baduanjin qigong, meridian exercises, dance class, Letai Chinese dance, nutrition lectures, ballet, hand reflexes, music therapy workshops, health seminar
Culture and Art
Xing Calligraphy, History: A Journey back at the Song Dynasty, Yanyuan Science and Technology Class, Intangible Cultural Heritage Handicraft Class, Silk Mesh Flower Making, Chinese Painting Basics
In addition to lifelong study and continuous social interaction, Yanyuan and Shenyuan also encourage residents to draw up dream lists, participate in the “Dream Chasing Program”, and take the initiative to realize every dream in the new stage of life. “Chasing” is a state of life that moves forward with expectations, and the process of “chasing dreams” will give residents a sense of ritual, achievement and happiness. Yanyuan and Shenyuan’s cultural and recreational event planners and butlers will codesign the dream pursuit plan with the residents and even the family members. As the staff know more about the seniors during this process, the needs and thoughts of the residents will gradually surface, and the vitality and potential of seniors will be released once again. 2021 is the third year of the implementation of the Dream Chasing Program. During the three years, with the help of community staff, residents held art exhibitions, served as hosts, published books, journeyed back to childhood and even held weddings, materializing one dream after another in the list.
Hospice Care and Reshaping the Outlook on Life
When Yanyuan just opened, a senior couple said to Yanyuan staff before moving in, “The last stop of our life is entrusted to you, Taikang.” The staff felt the enormous pressure laid on him. At that time, although Taikang put forward the concept of serving the whole life cycle of customers, they were not mentally prepared to face the final journey of the residents. As five years flashed by, Yanyuan and Shenyuan both experienced development and accompanied hundreds of residents in their final journey of life. During this process, Taikang staff, including me, have been constantly influenced by these residents who are older, wiser and more peaceful than us. Every journey to the last forms a precious part of Taikang Community and its residents’ outlook on life. I believe that every staff member of Yanyuan and Shenyuan will have their own most unforgettable “farewell”, and the most unforgettable farewell for me is Ms. Cui Kexin, a Yanyuan resident.
Professor Qian Liqun and his wife, Ms. Cui Kexin, were among the first dwellers of Taikang Community. In 2018, Ms. Cui was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The doctor said she had only four months to live. She did not seem panicked. With her years of medical expertise, she made a decision not to do chemotherapy or surgery but to live in Yanyuan Rehabilitation Hospital to receive pain treatment and hospice care. Professor Qian would walk from the community to the hospital just to keep her company every day. Ms. Cui said that she would make the best out of this last period to do something meaningful. She wanted to take control of the last journey and to complete her unfulfilled dreams. In more than eight months, she made four unexpected accomplishments. The first was to sing a “farewell song” at the Spring Festival Gala in Yanyuan. She wanted to keep her “eternal beauty” in the world. The 83-year-old, wearing a white dress, stood on the stage and sang. Everyone was amazed by her beauty and her positive attitude toward life. The second was to clean up the house, leaving no trouble to her family. The third was to plan the funeral herself. She wanted no memorial service, no eulogy and no wreath but a small farewell ceremony. She carefully selected an elegant photo of herself for the funeral. The last thing was to compile her own commemorative collection “My Affection for You”. Professor Qian believes this is to leave a memory for a group of friends who used to know her. After Ms. Cui fell ill, I visited her four times, and each time she and Professor Qian would talk and laugh heartedly, without the slightest sign of sadness from an incurable disease. Their care-free attitude toward life and death gives them spiritual wealth. This is how the eternal life should be. Professor Qian once said, “Since you have to pursue the meaning of life, you should pursue it to the end. Even at the last moment, you must strive for the quality of life.” I think Ms. Cui and Professor Qian both have noble souls, and they are the epitome of how people should face the last journey of life.
Yanyuan and Shenyuan have done a lot of homework when preparing the last journey of their residents, some of which are overlooked in China and even by their own family. The end of life is an inevitable and crucial stage. Many seniors around us have faced this alone in the dark night. I hope Taikang Community can take these heavy thoughts out under the light and let its residents feel the warmth. We believe that “respect” and “rescue” are equally important. The communities and hospitals of Yanyuan and Shenyuan provide residents with legal aid and hospice care with respect to their personal wishes, and Taikang’s Memorial Park helps residents prepare for death in advance. The hundreds of partings have helped us remember the temperature of life. Taikang’s values are “respecting life, caring for life, and praising life”. These values come from life and are again embodied in life. It has never been a mere slogan but a belief that we practice every day with actions.
American Retirement Community Taking Root in China
Since 2015, Yanyuan and Shenyuan, drawing on the ideals and services created by the American dynamic retirement community on the consumer end and integrating the reality of China and local culture, have become pilot projects in longevity economies with Chinese characteristics. It is fair to say that Taikang Community is a trailblazer in the industry and took the first step when there is no actual large-scale elderly care community in China.
Professor Zhang and his wife, Professor Li, made quite an impression on me. Before retirement, they traveled all over the retirement communities in the United States but could not find a suitable choice. After returning to China and having visited Yanyuan, they believed that it was better than the American retirement community, so they chose to return to China. When I went to visit the couple in 2016, I saw a carefully decorated home in Yanyuan with objects displayed in every corner, reminding them of past days. We had a joyful conversation, and Professor Zhang even impromptu sang the song “Yanyuan, our lovely home”. Professor Li initiated Yanyuan’s first ballet club. She had been away from her beloved ballet for decades when she moved into Yanyuan, and it was only after seeing Yanyuan’s dance studio that made her regain the enthusiasm and take the initiative to be the choreography teacher. Since 2016, Yanyuan residents have organized ballet classes on their own. The average age of the dancers is 73 years old, and the oldest is 83 years old. Their dances have been performed in major events such as Taikang Community anniversaries. The silver hair and confident smiles on the stage are a portrayal of Taikang residents and the best demonstration of their recognition of Taikang Community.
In 2019, Taikang Community organized a senior management visit to the United States again. In comparison, we believe that the extension and depth of services provided by Yanyuan and Shenyuan not only reached the level of their American counterparts but even surpassed them in some aspects. In Yanyuan and Shenyuan, we pay more attention to the combination of medical care and basic demands, including providing exclusive butlers and family doctors, providing healthy meals and case packages, carrying out exercise and fitness guidance, conducting regular home security inspections, and providing personalized financial and legal services. In terms of entertainment and social interaction, there are various courses and activities integrated with local culture, which is more in line with the spiritual needs of Chinese seniors. The corresponding public facilities are generally in better condition than those in the United States. In terms of assisted living, nursing care, and memory care, Yanyuan and Shenyuan not only provide professional and comprehensive care and treatment services but also equip the communities with full-time case managers, who are also event planners. In this way, residents can maintain physical and mental health at the same time. In addition, Taikang’s medical and memorial services provide support to the entire life cycle of the residents. Taikang offers professional hospice care for seriously ill residents and accompanies them during the last journey of life, which is also a path less traveled by American elderly care communities.
In the meantime, in the data age, we are also building the longevity community into a smart community. Taikang’s Shenyuan Phase II, Yanyuan Phase III and other upcoming communities will implement a series of smart technology services, which will be fully integrated into security, health, life and other aspects. In terms of safety, various systems ranging from wireless alarm positioning to activity track monitoring and from physical radar and bed exit alarm to facial recognition will effectively prevent seniors from tripping and being lost. In terms of life, the application of interactive large screens and service robots will bring convenience and fun to their life. In terms of health, through smart technology, residents can enjoy services such as health records, chronic disease management, remote consultation, and customized services. These have become the new business cards of Taikang, displaying its smart medical and health care integration. We build more senior-friendly facilities through the application of technology and bring more convenience and vitality to community residents through digital technology, thus gradually building Taikang’s longevity community into a pilot case that can empower residents in a centralized manner in the data age and longevity age.
It is a milestone for Taikang Community to incorporate the American elderly care model in China and provide customers with quality services at a lower cost. However, as mentioned above, it is not enough to simply define seniors as consumers. The consumption-led longevity economy will inevitably lose vitality as the population continues to age. Only through providing a platform for seniors to participate in social production and wealth creation can a new supply model be born under the longevity economy, which is also the mission in the future for Taikang Community and its residents.
Value Recreation by Taikang Residents
Today’s seniors are healthier and more energetic than their peers at any time in history, and they will maintain this state for a longer period. American scholar Joseph Coughlin once pointed out that the future of the longevity economy depends, to a large extent, on the actions of seniors, which is also the philosophy upheld by Yanyuan and Shenyuan. The average age of residents in both communities is over 80 years old, among whom 380 people are over 90 years old. The eldest resident has reached 103 years old, making it a true “longevity” community. They are the first and second generations of builders of China, including more than 20 principals and academicians, who have made great contributions to the development of the country and society. Most of them are energetic with a sound mind and rich in experience with philosophical thoughts about life. Among dwellers in the community, there are great minds, such as Professor Qian Liqun, who has retired but continues working and creating value for society, and there are also experts from all walks of life who are at the top of their fields. Needless to say, they are a huge treasure in our society.
The Accomplishment of Taikang Residents
As residents enjoy a rich life in Taikang Community, they also usher in a new stage of life and share their wisdom and experience with more people, thus recreating value and becoming a driving force for the supply of the longevity economy. At the same time, Yanyuan and Shenyuan staff also endeavor to encourage residents to try new things, recreate value in a more flexible way, impart knowledge, skills and experience within or outside the community, personally participate in community management, and create their own “third demographic dividend”.
In Yanyuan and Shenyuan, as of May 2021, more than 350 residents have served as lecturers, club leaders, event planners and other kinds of volunteers. A total of 3400 h of classes were held. Residents of the communities, including Professor Qian Liqun, have published nearly 30 books on various topics, making Yanyuan and Shenyuan a true “value creation center”. To establish a platform for such cultural inheritance and promotion, the community has specially created an intellectual property patent of a “friendly neighborhood”. Under this IP, a series of resident-led lectures involving all walks of life are organized, inspiring constructive and heated discussions every day.
The creative achievements of community residents not only become an important carrier to enrich the cultural life of the community but also a channel for seniors to reconnect with society and create value, which is an important feature of the upgraded longevity economy. We have reason to believe that under the blessing of new technologies in the data age, the influence of various activities created by Taikang residents will not be limited to the community but will be widespread through short videos, live broadcasts, and official accounts.
Mr. Feng recorded his four-year life in Shenyuan into a book called “Impressions of Shenyuan”. He also initiated and planned the “Talk about Life” program with Professor Yu, which brought the unique Shanghai culture to Shenyuan. Mr. Feng’s wife, Ms. Xu, picked up piano that she enjoyed when she was young and often wears qipao (cheongsam) with her friends in the community to show the unique charm of Shanghai-style women. Their shows are often performed at events in various Taikang communities. Mr. Lu, who was the head coach of the bridge club, is an amateur film critic and film collector. He set up a film screening room after moving into the longevity community to play his classic collections and gives film introductions and reviews, which are quite popular in the community.
In Yanyuan, a number of residents, including Ms. Chen and Mr. Zhao, held a personal art exhibition in the community. The exhibition received raving reviews, and the viewers were very enthusiastic. As a professor at Tsinghua University and Peking University, Professor Ge still stood on the podium after he came to Yanyuan, teaching quantum physics to the residents. His professional insights were applauded by the dwellers. Mr. Hou, the retired head coach of the national team, used to participate in international competitions as a national team swimmer. After retirement, he fell in love with the swimming pool in Yanyuan. Under his coaching, some residents in their 80s learned breaststroke and freestyle and even butterfly strokes. This makes him very proud of his career dedicated to sports. These dynamic stories are still being played in Yanyuan and Shenyuan…
Building a Longevity Community with Taikang Residents
Taikang residents’ lifetime wisdom and experience are of great value. That’s why we have put them into use, and established a “Letai Council”, to tap into their wisdom to improve the management level of the community. The council can carry out in-depth research on comprehensive and forward-looking issues that are of common concern to residents, put forward reasonable suggestions, and assume the role of a bridge between residents and operators. Many of these suggestions are very enlightening, and one suggestion from a Shenyuan resident stands out to me. He said that the “Shanghai-style culture” developed in Shanghai in the twentieth century once led a way of life in China, and today we can create a new fashion of “Shanghai-style dynamic retirement” in Shenyuan. What a creative and valuable suggestion. Since then, the creation of Shanghai-style elderly care has been integrated into the operation and construction of Shenyuan.
In fact, at the end of 2014, the Letai Council was already established. At that time, it was still six months before Yanyuan opened, and the management board spent nearly three days discussing with its future residents what Yanyuan should look like in the eyes of customers. In addition to the Letai Council and its committees, there are many forms of organizations in the community. As of May 2021, 42 residents have joined Yanyuan’s first branch committee of the Communist Party of China, and all of them are veteran CPC members who have worked hard all their lives. Yanyuan is also a gathering place for alumni associations of major universities, boasting more than 100 Peking University alumni and 60 Tsinghua University alumni. These college alumni associations are active organizations in the community and have become spiritual harbors for residents.
We know that the real leader of new demand and the real creator of new supply in the longevity economy should be this group of wise and inclusive seniors. What companies can do is adapt to their needs, generate demand and build a platform. Talk with seniors on an equal footing, avoid making decisions on their behalf without their consent, and give them a sympathetic ear, sufficient understanding and respect. This is generally overlooked in society, but it has been implemented into the operation of all Taikang communities. Because of this, Taikang has nurtured a sense of identity and belonging among the residents, and an increasing number of people are willing to proudly declare as “Taikang residents” to the outside. Recognition of the “Taikang resident” identity by seniors shows that the longevity community has truly assumed the role of “home”. It is believed that “Taikang residents”, a senior group all across the country, will gradually get known and play a unique role in the creation of a longevity economy.
The Letai Council currently has a sound charter and operational procedures. For example, the second Yanyuan Letai Council was established in May 2019, and as of April 2021, 14 council meetings have been held. It is expected that in 2021, the Letai Council National Federation will be established, and we hope that the directors of Yanyuan, Shenyuan and other communities will take another step forward to contribute to this mighty cause of reform in the elderly care industry on the platform of Taikang Communities in China.
“Time Bank” Landing in the Longevity Community
While Taikang advocates value recreation to its residents, Yanyuan and Shenyuan also introduced a “time bank” mechanism to encourage residents to help each other, invest in personal and community management, and strengthen the connection with the outside world. “Time Bank” originated in Japan and was developed in the United States. In the beginning, it referred to a group of volunteers who organized social welfare programs featuring mutual assistance. Volunteers deposit the time they participated in social welfare services into the time bank and withdraw time of services from it when they encounter difficulties. Now, we integrate this model with the realities of Chinese society and the Taikang longevity community and create a Taikang version of Time Bank. Residents accumulate Letai coins in their “time bank accounts” by participating in community building, supporting community activities, self-health management, or even using their own capacity to help introduce social resources into the community. These credit items cover all aspects of the new supply of the longevity economy mentioned above (Table 5.5). Residents can withdraw Letai coins to pay for daily consumables, food and health services when needed. This method gives full play to residents’ abilities and releases their vitality. Many residents feel that they have realized the true meaning of being “useful, knowledgeable, and happy” in the community.
Table 5.5
Time Bank Credit Point Items in Yanyuan and Shenyuan
Credit point item
Social services
Lecturer, serving as a volunteer lecturer at Letai College
Event support, providing support on-site at various events organized by the community
Volunteer in service projects, such as accompanying Alzheimer’s patients, those who have lost their only child, etc.
Club managers, responsible for the establishment of the club, the organization of daily activities, etc.
Council work, serving as a member of the Letai Council General, Branch or Professional Committee
Teambuilding, serving as the floor/building manager/and assisting in carrying out various floor activities
Introducing resources, such as events and teaching resources, etc.
Dynamic elderly care: participating in various group activities, clubs, sports check-in and step counting, community courses/competitions etc.
Health care: completing nutrition tasks, rehabilitation tasks, self-monitoring tasks of blood sugar, blood pressure and blood lipids, purchasing paid care, etc.
Cultural elderly care: holding exhibitions, publishing works, holding theme events, etc.
Love my family: visiting relatives and friends, participating in activities with relatives and friends, recharging and spending in the community for residents by relatives and friends, etc.
This mechanism was officially launched in Yanyuan and Shenyuan in 2019. The closed-loop management of the whole process requires the joint participation and cooperation of Taikang’s “1 + N” team and all residents. As of May 2021, 73 residents established time bank accounts in Shenyuan and accumulated over 4000 h of service. As a new, unique experimentation, the Time Bank enables seniors to become suppliers, create value and provide services for community operators. They can deposit in the form of “Letai coins” in exchange for future services. It blurs the identities of consumers and suppliers in the longevity community, improves the efficiency of value exchange, and makes the community a more organic community.
We have provided a new path for the longevity economy by encouraging residents to recreate value, build a community together, and introduce time banks. This is where we believe Yanyuan and Shenyuan are more advanced than the American elderly care community. To create an effective market supply for seniors, we need to reconstruct the traditional “study-work-retire” model in the industrial society, blurring the line, and decentralizing the structure to ensure that seniors can enjoy flexible conversion between lifelong study, elderly care, and value recreation. Social enterprises should create more flexible, customized value creation methods for seniors, which is also one of the important ways to address social problems in the era of longevity.
Taikang’s longevity community is constantly incubating new supplies and new demands tailored for seniors in the longevity economy. I believe that Taikang’s longevity community led by Yanyuan and Shenyuan is an innovative attempt. It is a small star in the vast sky, but it might be the brightest one. The Taikang longevity community led by a new concept is also an important part of Taikang’s development of the life insurance industry chain and the layout of the big health ecosystem. It is elderly care services of the longevity community that inspired Taikang’s innovative insurance product “Happiness Guide” and created a new career “Health Wealth Planner” that meets the needs of people’s health management in the future. The three together formed Taikang’s new business model. In this model, Taikang has been able to connect virtual insurance and physical medical care services, provide customers with full life cycle services, and create an overall solution from financing to service in the era of longevity. I believe this will become one of the mainstream forms of the longevity economy. It is hoped that this plan can be promoted throughout industry and society and become a beacon that inspires changes in the consumer, capital, and service markets so that we can have a clear picture of the vast longevity economy.
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Longevity Economy, Boundless like the Sea and the Sky
Dongsheng Chen
Copyright Year
Springer Nature Singapore

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