Wed, Jul 21, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Aging population seen as boon to home-care sector

GROWING CLIENT BASE People aged 65 years or older will make up 19.7 percent of the population in 2031 and they are going to be demanding new products

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The home care industry, along with related products and services for the elderly, is an industry full of potential because the nation has become an aging society, analysts said yesterday at a forum in Taipei.

"Along with the drop in the birth rate and the structural transformation of the society, Taiwan has become an aging society," said Chang Tsz-ying (張慈映), an associate researcher at the Industrial Techno-logy Research Institute.

A nation becomes an aging society once the number of its people aged 65 years and above make up 7 percent of its total population, according to UN standards.

Taiwan became an aging society in 1993 when the segment of its population aged 65 and up accounted for 7.1 percent of the total, according to figures compiled by the Council for Economic Planning and Development.

The elderly segment grew to 8.8 percent of the population in 2001 and is forecasted to jump to 19.7 percent in 2031, the council said.

In light of this trend, the home-care sector saw market demand reach NT$39.94 billion last year and it is estimated to reach NT$45.8 billion in 2008, said Chang, who works at ITRI's biotechnology and healthcare industry intelligence division.

But quality service is key to the prosperity of the sector, Chang said, urging the government to provide a licensing mechanism to facilitate the long-term development of the industry.

Taiwanese companies could utilize the sound foundation of Chi-nese herbal medicine to develop health-care food or medicine to meet the needs of the elderly, she said.

Applying information technology to long-distance home care is another industry trend, Chang said, noting that both Intel and General Electric have plunged into the tele-homecare industry by developing smart houses that come complete with monitoring devices which can inform care managers of any change in the occupant's health conditions in real time.

One of the nation's home-care companies is scheduled to roll out a simple telehomecare service in September in cooperation with Chunghua Telecom.

"Customers could use video- conferencing facilities to contact our company or our contracted doctors to ask questions and, in turn, receive simple diagnoses, for NT$1,000 to NT$1,500 a month," said Jet Huang (黃勇傑), a sales representative for Asia Pacific Telehealth Technologies Co (亞太 健康).

Huang said his company would be the first in the nation to provide such a service. An academic institute, however, is also working on the providing such services.

"We are cooperating with the Institute for Information Industry as well as with several technology and insurance companies to provide more complete telehomecare services," said Chien I-kuang (簡怡光), chief executive officer of the Center for the Development of Social and Community Health at Kaohsiung Medical University.

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