The mainland will allow retirees to take out bank loans against their homes to pay for their living expenses under a pilot programme in four cities, its insurance regulator said yesterday. The programme is the latest government effort to help citizens aged 60 and above. The city governments in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Wuhan will start a two-year experiment from July 1, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission said. Reverse mortgages, common in developed countries but new to the mainland, are extended to older citizens who use their homes as collateral to receive regular payments from insurers. They help broaden financial resources for the elderly and expand the types of retirement services offered by insurers, the regulator said. "The scheme provides a new way for old-age care," it said. A proposal for the pilot programme was published last year but some experts doubted it could be effective because all private home ownership is capped at 70 years and homes are traditionally passed on to the next generation as inheritance. Official figures show that in February, the mainland had more than 200 million people over the age of 60 - 15 per cent of the population.