China, a country steeped in traditional Confucianism of filial piety, the foundation of all social values, is without exception as with Japan, rapidly facing the changes & challenges of an aging population.
While the physical needs of the aged can be taken care of financially, their social, spiritual & emotional needs are in fact far more critical.
Can we expect the old folks to be left on their own in care or nursing homes? Left to their own accord to congregate among themselves to play Chinese chess, mahjong or tai-chi exercise, as they are fond of & popularly known to indulge?Many old folks complain about being left there alone at care or nursing homes without visits from their loved ones.
Without adequate safety net for the elderly & which is not quite in place, the staggering number & rapid growth of the aged are indeed scary.By 2050 more than a quarter of the population will be over 65 years old and younger generations face an unprecedented burden of care.The present figure stands at 180 millions. The enforced one-child policy & the fact that longevity is prolonged nationally at around 75 because of improvement in health & medical care further aggravate the situation.
The unprecedented growth of such sheer numbers will definitely pose a serious threat to China’s social fabric and economic stability.The planning & tasks ahead are enormous.
China has recently stirred family emotions with a new law making it compulsory for grown adults to visit their elderly parents. It states that adults must take care of their parents’ spiritual needs. The law is short on detail – frequency of visits or potential punishment, but courts could impose fines or jail terms. This is indeed a surprised move.
Another area of concern, both in China and globally, is the proportion of older people living alone. The UN estimates that 40 percent of the world’s elderly are living independently alone or with their spouse, with an big gap depending on where you live – urban or rural.
So, is China right to make children legally obliged to look after their aged parents? Is the world ready to cope with a rapidly ageing population?
Old parents/grandparents, in their golden years of life, deserve to be well looked after & enjoy whatever leisure & pleasure that the diminishing years ahead of them have to offer.
It’s a shame that in this fast changing world, a lot of traditional practices are phasing out. Nothing pleases the old folks more or can replace the simple pleasure & joy of family reunions during birthday & anniversary celebrations, Spring festivals & others . . . or two, three or four generations simply coming together for meals. Now you see old folks selling off their family home and downsizing to live in apartments or care homes.