OLD AGE, PLACE AND CARE: THE EXPERIENCES OF AGING IN PLACE IN BEIJING, CHINA
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The population is aging rapidly in China as a result of the baby boom, the One-Child Policy and a declining mortality rate in the past decades. The government has proposed “Aging at home” and “Societalization of elder care” as the basic strategies for the older population. Beijing is a typical case to study for emerging social programs and services as the capital city. In the human geography literature, experiences of aging and care at home and at the community level have been barely studied in a Chinese context. Methodologically, a “new division” is taking place between quantitative and qualitative researchers in health geography. (Rosenberg, 2015) This dissertation seeks to contribute to the current literature by providing a non-Western lens and combining quantitative and qualitative methods in understanding old age, place and care. There are two broad research objectives in the dissertation: first, to understand the experiences of aging in place and older people’s negotiations with changing environments in old age; and second, to understand access to home and community-based services and the experience of care. The above research goals are achieved by using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Four hundreds and fifty-one valid questionnaires were collected for quantitative analysis. Forty-seven older people and 21 caregivers were interviewed for qualitative analysis. It is found that the current physical, built and social environments inform the meanings of place and challenge the identities older people that have been established throughout the life course. The representation of the socialist past among older people is circumscribed by their economic conditions and environmental situation. Home and community-based care is largely provided by informal caregivers while their roles are decreasing. Access to care is varied by individual socioeconomic characteristics and place. The public sector’s role in providing care is still small and conflicts are common between older care recipients and private sector providers. By adopting mixed methods, they complement each other to provide a more complete story and bring different foci to the fore in understanding the issues. The dissertation sheds light on the government’s planning and policy making in China.