Fri, Jul 19, 2013 - Page 9 News List

China’s workers face the great task of caring for their elderly

The growing number of elderly Chinese is a demographic time bomb that could result in millions of old people facing a bleak future of poverty and loneliness

By Lijia Zhang  /  The Guardian

She added that if her children can visit her when they can, call a couple of times every month and send her postcards when they travel — anything that makes her feel that they care — then her emotional needs are fulfilled.

My parents live alone in my hometown, Nanjing. I myself have long migrated to the capital. Every year, I make the 1,000km journey home (actually only four hours by the speed train) about half a dozen times, dutifully and slightly grudgingly (given half a chance, mother would nag me to find a husband and a proper job). Luckily, my sister and brother live nearby and pop over frequently.

In the next 10 to 15 years, people reaching old age will have fewer children with them as the family planning policy bears its fruit.

The demographic trends will cause increasing constraints to the family-centered old-age support system. The government will have to invest vigorously to improve its poor social provisions for the elderly, building affordable retirement homes, expanding the rural pension program and offering subsidized, if not free, medical care for the old.

To combat China’s great task of caring for the gray population, a joint effort by the government, society, family and individuals is needed. Otherwise, millions of old people will face a bleak future of poverty and loneliness.

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