Nursing homes are a relative rarity in China, where old people tend to live with their children.
Sunshine Nursing Home, in Hangzhou, eastern China, is even more novel. Among the 600 or so retirees living there are 20 young residents.
They volunteer to teach classes to old people: calligraphy, music, dancing. In return, they get a bed for just 300 RMB – about £30 – per month.
It’s a pilot scheme to try and solve two problems: China’s rapidly ageing society and the high cost of housing in major cities.
The first is “a big problem”, according to Qian Naijing, a Communist Youth League official overseeing the project.
He said: “Everyone needs to contribute something to ageing society from their own part, like our project.”
“This nursing home’s model could be applied in the whole country.”
China is getting old, fast. Last year there were 167 million people over the age of 60. By 2050, there will be 487 million, representing more than a third of the population.
That will pose two major, related problems: taking care of that many old people (China has only 7.46 million nursing home beds for senior citizens right now), and the larger economic effects.
There will be fewer young people in the workforce to contribute economically. At the same time they will have to pay for the care of a greater number of old people.
Many developed Asian economies have faced the same problem but were wealthier than China at the same point.
“It will pose a pressure on China’s pension account system,” says Dan Wang, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in Beijing.
“And it will cause a severe labour shortage. And for demographics, they’re basically the destiny of society. When there’s a large population which is old, then consumption will go down.”
The central government is aware of the looming problem.
“The reform they’re undertaking – the pension account reform, individual income tax, medical reform – they’re targeting this elderly progress,” Dan Wang says.
“And they’re making slow progress but maybe not quickly enough to solve the problem.”
The historical one-child policy which caused much of the demographic mess has been lifted. And the current two child cap is expected to be lifted in 2020.
But China’s fertility rate remains low. Many families in cities choose to have just one child.
Fang Jing is a 34-year-old entrepreneur who lives in Shanghai. She has one daughter.
“For one child, she not only needs to go to kindergarten, but also attend after-school classes, like English, dancing, art. It costs a lot to pay for all of them. For us the economic reason is quite a big issue for us.
“So after deep consideration, we decided to have just one child. We put all our effort and money into her.”