Seniors learn to dance in a college for the elderly in Harbin, Heilongjiang province.(Wang Kai/Xinhua)
An innovative service designed to help senior citizens access recreational programs and public services has been launched in Xinxiang, Henan province.
According to the city's committee on aging, Xinxiang has about 760,000 people aged 60 and older, accounting for 15.8 percent of the population.
The new service, part of the integrated information website 12349.gov.cn, allows senior citizens to accumulate points by participating in various social activities, which they can redeem for daily necessities.
"I have 2,000 points in my account, which I gained through taking music and dance classes in a college for the elderly," said Wen Xiangling, a 60-year-old retiree from Xinxiang.
"I gain five points from each class, which is equal to 1 yuan (15 cents). The points can then be spent on haircuts and laundry services."
Hu Jiebing, head of Xinxiang's committee on aging, said the points-based system effectively encourages seniors to take part in social activities.
"For example, they can get points from 57 service centers for participating in recreational classes such as calligraphy and photography. They can then use these points in supermarkets and at care centers," said the 58-year-old.
So far, Xinxiang's seniors have accrued more than 110 million points, with over 12,000 being spent every day on a variety of goods and services.
A hotline associated with the initiative receives more than 800 calls a day.
Hu Xiuying, 76, said she spends her points on physical therapy to treat her arthritis. She has attended therapy sessions five days a week for the past two months, with each session costing 20 points.
She accumulated her points through her savings account with Bank of China and her spending on telecommunication services, she said.
Both Bank of China and China Citic Bank offer financial services that reward points as part of the program, with 30 points accrued for every 1,000 yuan saved over a period of a year.
China Unicom, meanwhile, offers seniors a point for every 10 yuan spent on its services. Points are also available for any seniors who take part in a special quiz program that is broadcast on local television.
According to Xinxiang's committee on aging, an increase in the number of seniors has presented a challenge for the government, with the upward trend unlikely to be reversed anytime soon.
The points-based service aims to better use government funds by facilitating access to social services for seniors who participate in charitable, recreational and educational activities, it said.