LANZHOU, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- With a drizzle hammering the hills, autumn days in Xiahe County were delightfully cool, as Kunchok Tsering, 73, took a sip of piping-hot milk tea to stay warm while playing chess in his room.
"All my life I have lived alone, but now I am in this new house and have a large family," said Kunchok Tsering.
By "new house" he is referring to a welfare center in the county located in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China's Gansu Province, which is 2 km away from Labrang Monastery, one of the largest temples of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Kunchok Tsering lives in the welfare center with 27 other elderly people, most of whom are Tibetans.
Before moving to the welfare center, Kunchok Tsering used to herd cattle for a living. Life on the pasture was hard and lonely, and he seldom had someone to talk to.
Traditionally, many Tibetans lead a nomadic life. When they grow old, life becomes tough since they are too old to work and usually live in deprived circumstances.
In 2004, Kunchok Tsering filed an application to move to the welfare center. He now lives in a 30-square-meter room with an attached bathroom and has all basic necessities. A calling device has been placed at the bedside, using which he can call care workers whenever in need.
China attaches great importance to taking care of elderly people, as the size of the country's graying population continues to increase rapidly. Nursing homes have been built to provide accommodation and care to the elderly.
Gannan has built 59 nursing institutions and 320 rural nursing homes to offer diversified services for the aged, with a total of 250 million yuan (about 38.8 million U.S. dollars) spent on such projects.
"We have hired three nursing graduates for professional services," said Kalbsang, head of the welfare center, adding that the center has forged cooperation with local healthcare centers for medical and health services as well as periodic physical examination for the aged.
For Lhamo Kyi, a 23-year-old care worker who started working at the welfare center last year after graduation, the elderly people living there remind her of her grandparents.
"I get along with them quite well. I treat them with patience and love, and take care of them like my own grandparents," she said.
Tenzin Tso, 82, was relaxing on an electric massage chair. In 2019, she was diagnosed with severe cataracts, and the center's staff had helped her undergo the operation.
A care worker helped Tenzin Tso wear her bib before she started her lunch. She took a piece of meat and put it in her mouth, and thumbed up to show her admiration for the cook.
After living at Qinghai-Tibet Plateau for several years, elderly Tibetans form a unique dietary habit. They love meat and dairy products more than vegetables and fruits. The canteen menu offers a choice of balanced and nutritious foods while complying with their eating traditions.
Choezom, 75, said that one of the most important reasons he chose to live in the welfare center in Xiahe is that Labrang Monastery is nearby and he can visit it. "It takes me 20 minutes to walk there. I usually go there to offer prayers every fortnight."
Wang Xuezhi, vice director of Xiahe Civil Affairs Bureau, said the center is equipped with a chessboard room, a gym and a library, and the staff also organizes various activities and short trips to enrich the lives of the elderly.
"The booming nursing services give elderly Tibetans more choices in terms of where they want to spend the rest of their lives," Wang said.