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Preschool-aged children learn the folk art of paper-cutting at a day care institution in Shanxi province. [Photo by Liu Tong for China Daily]

As part of its efforts to establish a wide-ranging social welfare system, the North China province of Shanxi is shifting emphasis to the care of elderly people and children.

The continually improving care of elders is an active response to an aging society, according to local officials.

The latest census shows that Shanxi has a total of 6.6 million residents aged over 60 and 4.5 million aged over 65, accounting for 18.92 percent and 12.9 percent of the province total population, respectively. The ratios also represent increases of 7.39 percentage points and 5.33 percentage points from those in the previous census.

To cope with an aging society, more elder care facilities have been established in Shanxi in recent years.

The Nanguanfang community in the provincial capital of Taiyuan, for instance, is home to one such facility.

Covering a floor space of 2,600 square meters, the Nanguanfang Elder Care Center is the largest of its kind in Shanxi province. In addition to full-time care services, it offers dining, cultural, healthcare and entertainment services to seniors in the neighborhood.

An old man surnamed Liu, who lives in the neighborhood, said he and his wife are frequent visitors to the elder care center.

"We eat our meals at the center's canteen, which has freed us from the labor of cooking," Liu said. "You can spend a whole day in the center with your friends here as there are also facilities for reading, games, exercise and entertainment."

Since 2020, Shanxi has made huge investment in developing community-level elder care facilities, according to Wang Li, an official of the Shanxi provincial government.

"We have built 60 community elder care centers since 2020," Wang said. "And the number is expected to reach 200 by the end of 2025."

Shanxi's other efforts in serving seniors include fostering more elder care entities, and combining elder care with medical and tourism sectors, according to the official.

While strengthening the elder care sector, Shanxi province is placing similar emphasis on universal care services to children, especially those aged under 3.

Since 2020, the province has invested about 27.8 million yuan ($4.14 million) to help build 24 new day care facilities for children under 3, according to Wang.

The official said there were a total of 127 registered children day care institutions in Shanxi by the end of 2021.

"Offering universal day care services to children under 3 is a new extension of our social welfare system, which is expected to greatly address the concerns of working parents," Wang said.

Han Linfang contributed to this story.

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