Time to invade China? That's a question more long-term care operators are beginning to ask

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

The United States is certainly struggling with its long-term care challenges. But compared to many parts of the world, we're practically amateurs.

If you want to know what a real long-term care tsunami looks like, take a look at China.

While people over age 65 already account for about 7% of China's population, the figure is projected to surpass 23% by 2020. That's 23% of more than 1.38 billion people. Or roughly the same amount as the current total population of the United States.

Clearly, the nation's medical and social insurance system is about to be tested as never before. And this is happening while the country's traditional multi-generational family structure gets crushed by social change. For a nice summary, take a look at this recent article from Bloomberg.

This reality may present a potential disaster for China's policymakers. But for U.S.-based senior care organizations, this could be an unmatched opportunity. One recent venture, China Senior Care Inc., was formed for the express purpose of bringing Western-style senior care options to China. Its directors include Robert Tanenbaum, a principal of Lerner Enterprises (which is the largest private real estate developer in the D.C. area), and Nelson Carbonell, who chairs Snowbird Capital, which operates of out Reston, VA.

From the looks of things, they are going to be very busy for quite some time. Especially in light of a recent announcement by Premier Li Keqiang to cut red tape and spur foreign senior living investment.

It's a safe bet that many providers attending the fall trade shows will be discussing the opportunities that China affords. The operators that are really serious will be easiest to spot: They'll be the ones speaking in Mandarin or some related dialect.

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McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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