Eat, Pray, Love and Retire

ByCao Chen July 21, 2020

Shanghai Nursing Home Once Shared by Buddhists is Donated to the Community

For nearly two decades, Pu Yimin lived with her elderly Buddhist friends, who prayed, cooked and cared for each other at a nursing home they bought, renovated and ran.

The 93-year-old, who was the last inhabitant of the home in Jiading District, Shanghai, recently donated the building to the government of Gelong Village for community use.

"I certainly can't keep the empty building for myself, because many people paid for it," Pu said.

"I believe donating it to the government is the most appropriate way to solve the problem and will contribute to the development of the village."

The 200-square-meter, two-story house with six rooms is situated at No 132, Gelong Village. It once housed a credit cooperative that provided finances to rural enterprises and individuals.

When the cooperative was relocated in the late 1990s, Pu and her friends saw an opportunity. Unlike today, back then there were few assisted living facilities or nursing homes for older people in the district.

Pu, who is from Jiangyin in Jiangsu Province, and moved to Shanghai in her 20s to work as a doctor, came up with the idea of buying the building and living there with her friends.

The group was partly motivated by their adherence to Buddhist precepts that were not followed by their family members. "Because of my dietary requirements as a vegetarian my family had to cook separately every day at home, which was inconvenient," Pu said.

After negotiations with local authorities, a sale price of 50,000 yuan was agreed to, Pu said.

However, she and her friends did not have the money and had to raise funds to buy the property. About 200 village residents donated anywhere from 5 yuan to 2,000 yuan, although some never lived in the house.

Moving in

In January 1999, Pu and her friends purchased the building and named it the Cizhou Nursing Home, vowing to offer each other mutual assistance and to pull together in times of trouble.

The first task was renovating the property to make it suitable for habitation. Again, Pu and her friends raised tens of thousands of yuan to buy beds, refurbish bathrooms and build a kitchen.

In 2000, they moved into the building and welcomed like-minded older people to join them.

"It was not a real nursing home as there were no supervisors, nurses, doctors or cleaners. Everything depended on us," Pu said.

"That's why we only accommodated elderly vegetarians who could take care of themselves, believed in Buddhism and were willing to pay 100 yuan into a pool every month to meet expenses like water and electricity bills."

Although no official records were kept, Pu said the building was once home to up to 22 elderly people age 60 and older.

She said they lived like most elderly people, only they showed more love and care for each other.

Chen Jifen, a friend of Pu who lived in the house, said: "We took turns to cook, we shopped in the supermarket and we worshipped Buddha together every day. The seniors' children brought food during their visits as well."

Chen said if anyone was seriously ill, they would contact his or her relatives and ask them to take the elderly person to the hospital. Residents looked after those with chronic illnesses, administering their medication and washing their clothes.

Yao Peifen, who lived at Cizhou Nursing Home, said it was an ideal life for her being with friends her own age. "My children were busy working, and I'd rather not bother them to look after me every day," she said.

Moving on

But as elderly care services grew in Shanghai and people demanded a higher living standard, the residents of the home left one by one. Some were looked after at home by caregivers or were placed in commercially run nursing homes.

Pu was the last resident of the home, and in 2018 she moved into the Shuangshan Nursing Home in Jiading.

The building is once again empty. The older residents who lived peacefully there don't want to profit from the sale, but instead pass the building on to the community, Pu said.

Her decision to donate the building was supported by her friends.

"Money is like sand trickling between your fingers," Pu said. "It is irrelevant when it drains away. Don't worry, just use it when it's needed."

In June, Chen Xuefeng, Party secretary of Gelong Village, officially accepted the donation, and issued a donation certificate to the Cizhou Nursing Home.

"We will renovate the building into a public service place and make full use of it to serve the elderly in the village," Chen said.


(Source: China Daily)


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