One nursing home in China has figured out a way to get adult children to visit their elderly parents more often: A Suzhou care center in Jiangsu province, is giving out "filial piety awards" in the form of cash vouchers, according to Yangtze Evening Post, reports the BBC.
The most valuable vouchers, worth 200 yuan, or a little less than $30, are given to those who pay 30 visits over two months. Lower-value vouchers are given to those who pay fewer visits.
The program — meant to help curb loneliness and improve life for residents — has caused family visits to spike, with thousands of dollars of vouchers being paid out.
Indeed, research shows social relationships affect mental and physical health, even impacting mortality risk. And at least one study — on elderly folks in rural China whose families had migrated elsewhere — suggests good mental health can be the top factor determining quality of life in aging populations.
Other countries have similarly introduced initiatives to incentivize young people to spend time with the elderly, though not within their families.
One retirement home in the Netherlands, for example, offers free housing to students who spend 30 hours a month being "good neighbors" to the elderly residents.
One reason for the growing need for such programs is shifting living arrangements: As intergenerational households have declined across the world, older people are finding themselves more socially isolated than ever before.
At least at the Suzhou nursing home, financial incentives appear to be working.
"My son has come to see me a lot more than before — it seems as though this 'award' has played a role," Mr. Wu, an elderly resident of the home, told the Yangtze Evening Post.