Investors are betting big on a major attitude shift among elderly Chinese — that they will warm up to retirement homes as the world's most populous country ages and smaller families struggle to support parents and grandparents.

Who takes care of the elderly in China, where pensions are tiny, is one of the major headaches policymakers face as they deal with the first demographic downturn since Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution.

Costly nursing homes are out of reach for most elderly and are generally frowned upon, with many judging the use of such facilities as a sign children are not fulfilling their duties.