Member of CPPCC National Committee and Executive Vice President of BAST SIMA Hong: actively responding to aging population by improving science literacy of old people

2021-03-05

According to the National Bureau of Statistics data, in 2019, China had about 176 million people aged 65 or above. By 2050, this figure will increase to about 487 million, showing an increasingly remarkable trend of aging population. According to trusted survey findings, science literacy of China’s old population is far lower than the national average. During the epidemic prevention and control, the “digital divide” of old people also appeared particularly salient.

How to deal with this situation? At this year’s two sessions, member of CPPCC national committee, co-chairman of China Democratic National Construction Association Beijing and Executive Vice President of BAST SIMA Hong suggested that science literacy of old people should be improved to help old people get involved into the modern society and have better quality of life. 

Currently, the level of science literacy of old population in China is still rather low. According to the 11th China citizen science literacy sampling survey, in 2020, the ratio of scientifically literate Chinese citizens was 10.56%, of which the rate of scientifically literate citizens aged 60 to 69 was merely 3.52%, far below the national average. With the information literacy as an example, along with rapid advancement of big data, AI and other information technologies and widespread adoption of intelligent services, the “digital divide” faced by old people is increasingly salient, as lack of information literacy makes them difficult to get involved in the contemporary society. Meanwhile, old people are generally concerned about their physical health, while low science literacy, limited ability to distinguish information and other reasons make them easier to be deceived and exploited by pseudo-religion, superstition and pseudo-scientific products.

This year’s government work report pointed out the need to perfect the traditional service safeguards and provide old people and other groups with more considerate and thoughtful services. In the information society, to promote intelligent services requires adaption to needs of old people and preventing intelligent tools from causing obstacles to daily lives of old people on the one hand; on the other hand, there is also a need to improve health literacy and information literacy knowledge and skills of old people, resolve difficulties encountered by old people in applying intelligent technologies and allow old people to better share the fruits of IT-enabled development.

SIMA Hong believes properly dealing with the relation between aging population and harmonious social development has become a big proposition in China’s high-quality socioeconomic development. She suggested that resources from related Party and government departments, social originations and media should be actively integrated to provide science communication services to old population across the board in light of the priorities such as poverty alleviation and medical system reform. There is a need to further focus on content supply, provide more practical and popular science communication products surrounding highly frequent events involved in daily lives of old people, and conduct targeted and diverse science popularization activities of varied forms that meet old people’s needs. There is also a need to actively leverage the promoting role of community (village) education for health education of old population, conduct related activities with communities (villages) as the center and provide specialized science literacy improvement services. Meanwhile, it is also necessary to accelerate the materialization and implementation of programs for old people to apply intelligent technologies, gradually fill the “digital divide” and effectively increase the sense of gain, happiness and security of old people in the information society.

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