Tibet offers nursing home for rural elderly, orphans

Tsangzhoen cannot believe her luck -- her new home has an elevator, under-floor heating, recreational facilities and, should she need them, there are doctors on-call.

With no relatives to take care of her, Tsangzhoen, 69, along with around 300 other retirees from rural southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, were offered rooms in a nursing home community in the regional capital of Lhasa.

"I don't have to cook for myself anymore. In the past, especially in winter, I would have to drag my sore body to the cooker just to eat. Now I have doctors to turn to whenever necessary," she explained.

Her new home is part of a collective accommodation project launched for orphans and the elderly who have no relatives to take care of. The residents of this home are originally from underdeveloped, rural areas in Tibet. The property, covering an area of six hectares, opened in September 2015.

Over the past three years, the regional government has spent nearly 3 billion yuan (461 million U.S. dollars) on 80 new nursing homes for the elderly and 10 orphanages. As of March, more than 11,000 retirees and 5,600 orphans had accepted places at these homes.

Residents of this community do not pay any rent.

Dorje Tsedrub, vice chair of the regional government, said the project was one of the region's poverty alleviation measures.

"The elderly and orphans have enjoyed better living conditions, medical care and education after being provided accommodation at nursing homes and orphanages in towns and cities," he said.

Many of the new orphanages, such as one in Shannan Prefecture, accept children from outside the catchment area. Shannan orphanage has nearly 170 homeless children from Nagqu Prefecture where the altitude is high and life is hard.

Soinam Rigzin, head of civil affairs bureau of Shannan Prefecture, said all the orphans would be given places at a school nearby.

"We eat so well every day, and the teachers are so nice. We don't want to go back," said Tseri, 10, from Bachen County in Nagqu Prefecture.

Lawang, chef of the orphanage, said the children were fed a varied, nutritious diet.

Having lived in an orphanage himself, Lawang, 27, was keen to give something back, so after graduating from vocational school he pursued a career in care.

Dainzin Ngoizhub, an official in charge of social welfare with the regional civil affairs department, said an orphanage in Lhasa had nearly 300 residents that were from Nagqu or Qamdo prefectures, adding that the resettlement had improved their lives.

"Everything is fantastic here. I will study hard and do something in return for society," said Gyamatso, 12, from Nagqu who now lives in the orphanage in Lhasa.