BEIJING/SHANGHAI -- Zhang Yongqing, 90, calls himself an inventor. An electric wheelchair he modified was a hit at this year's International Elderly Care Service Industry Exhibition held in Beijing in May.
Equipped with lithium batteries, the modified wheelchairs can travel up to 40 kilometers on a full charge.
"I have registered a patent for my wheelchair. More than 1,000 units have been sold," Zhang said while driving his two-seater electric wheelchair to hand out product brochures in the exhibition hall.
Zhang was a mechanic at a water pump factory before he retired in 1988. He started inventing in 2005 when his now deceased wife had some trouble walking and had to rely on wheelchairs.
"I was 77 years old at that time and it was hard for me to push her wheelchair," said Zhang. "I started to modify traditional wheelchairs so that they could help her get on or off buses by herself."
Zhang's invention is just one of the thousands of elderly-friendly products ranging from oral cleaning to assistance devices at the exhibition, which attracted more than 300 companies, institutions, and social organizations from 20 countries and regions.
Artificial intelligent (AI) products and facilities for elderly care like escort robots and physical examination robots gained attention at the exhibition.
"It has become fashionable for elderly Chinese to buy and use the latest AI care products," said Zhang.
According to a survey on the living conditions of elderly Chinese, 65.6 percent of the respondents have bought senior care products like dentures or adult diapers.
By the end of 2017, the number of people aged 60 or above had reached 241 million in China, accounting for 17.3 percent of the total population.
Since China first became an aging society in 1999, the number of people aged 60 or above has seen a net increase of 110 million. It is estimated that the number of seniors will peak around 2050 to reach 487 million, 34.9 percent of the total population.
Attracted by huge demand in China market, Yoshiaki Ito, general manager of Nichii Shanghai Company, aimed to provide customized services for Chinese seniors.
"I attend the senior care service exhibition every year to learn about the latest care products worldwide," said Zhang. "These products indeed help a lot in improving our quality of care."
Many elderly also agreed that they should not fully depend on the smart care products, and care from their companion or family members is the main determinant of how happy their life is.
"I cannot imagine a robot helping me take a bath or turn over in bed. It is cold and indifferent," said a visitor surnamed Liang at the exhibition. "These AI facilities and products can help take care of us, but care from our family matters a lot," said Liang.
As he left the exhibition hall, Zhang said he will continue inventing. "The process of invention and manufacturing makes my life full and colorful," he said.