China’s Elder Care Policies 1994–2020: A Narrative Document Analysis

Marion F. Krings, Jeroen D.H. van Wijngaarden, Shasha Yuan*, Robbert Huijsman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
76 Downloads (Pure)


Until the 1980s, institutional elder care was virtually unknown in China. In a few decades, China had to construct a universal social safety net and assure basic elderly care. China’s government has been facing several challenges: the eroding traditional family care, the funding to assure care services for the older population, as well as the shortage of care delivery services and nursing staff. This paper examines China’s Five-Year Policy Plans from 1994 to 2020. Our narrative review analysis focuses on six main topics revealed in these policies: care infrastructure, community involvement, home-based care, filial piety, active aging and elder industry. Based on this analysis, we identified several successive and often simultaneously strategic steps that China introduced to contend with the aging challenge. In Western countries, elder care policies have been shifting to the home care approach. China introduced home care as the elder care cornerstone and encouraged the revival of the filial piety tradition. Although China has a unique approach, the care policies for the aged population in China and Western countries are converging by emphasizing home-based care, informal care and healthy aging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6141
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


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