By Phyllis Mitzen, Valerie Gruss and Memoona Hasnain
Shanghai is a city of 23 million people. Twenty percent of its population (4.58 million people) is ages 60 and older, compared to Chicago’s population of 2.7 million, with approximately 14.25 percent being ages 60 and older. Shanghai is aging faster than the rest of China, and Beijing has mandated consecutive five-year plans to meet the needs of its growing aging population. Thus Shanghai, a wealthy and culturally diverse city with immigrants from all over China, is creating new social services care models to meet elders’ needs, with an eye toward country-wide replication.
In 2014, the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau was reaching out internationally for ideas and approached Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI; Chicago is one of Shanghai’s sister cities, and the nonprofit manages citizen diplomacy for Chicago), requesting an exchange focused on aging services. The Chicago-Shanghai Sister Cities Exchange is the first of the sister cities to focus on social service approaches to older adults. The Chinese American Service League, a local agency providing aging services in Chicago’s Chinatown, along with CSCI staff and its China committee, invited interested experts in aging, forming the CSCI Shanghai/Chicago Social Service Exchange Committee. The first delegation from Shanghai visited Chicago in 2014. The following year, a delegation from Chicago traveled to Shanghai, establishing a yearly exchange.
The 2017 Visit to Shanghai
The 2017 visit began with a detailed orientation. Annually, the Shanghai mayor requests a list of “practical community projects” (such as number of beds created, number of workers trained, etc.) to be completed each year. This includes pilot projects having targeted district goals based on population distribution and finances and using best practices and culturally adaptive evidence-based, international care models.