Care For Your Grandparents Month
EIJING – Confucius called old age a “good and pleasant thing” which meant you were ‘gently lifted off the stage but given a comfortable front seat as spectator’. This noble sentiment portrays a melancholic picture of how seniors should be treated. They are allowed to live in peace and can freely give their wisdom to younger generations.
In rural China, where the traditional nuclear family is dominant, retirement homes are rare. You will be labeled as a uncaring or bad son if you place your parents in retirement homes. Zhou Rui, a Guangxi native who lives in Beijing, stated that abandoning one’s family is deeply dishonorable. This belief seems to hold true even in extreme situations. Most families prefer to hire a caregiver for their loved one when dealing with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. “But, since I live in Beijing to do my job, and my mother is an only child, she has agreed to move into a home. Zhou Rui says it is better to break with tradition than to leave my mother alone.
Western society has become more uncomfortable with the idea that retirement means one is done contributing to society. Confucius’ words might be a little more relevant in such situations. However, China is a country where taking care of your parents is important. Failure to do so could result in a family losing its face. Children from all walks of society are reminded repeatedly that they owe their parents everything and must repay it in full. This responsibility and the bonds it creates are never more evident than during massive human migrations such as those that occur during the Spring Festival or National Day holidays, when millions of people travel across the country to visit their parents.
Although this unity between generations seems to be eternal, there are two factors that could threaten it. This is due to the ‘one-child policy’ of the Communist Party of China (CPC). In the past, parents had many children: daughters and sons who all contributed to their parent’s care when they were old. China’s social attitudes are rapidly changing, with one child per family living in cities and two in rural areas. National media have already condemned the self-centered attitude of the “xiao Huang di” (little emperors), generation that was raised as children and has little respect for tradition. They prefer to improve their own standing.
A second factor that could cause disruption is the fact that people live longer. China had 144million over-60s in 2005, which is 11% of its total population. Although longer, healthier lives are something to be proud of and a testimony to the progress made in Chinese society over the past years, a rise in elderly people will put pressure on both the economy and society. Both will need to adjust to compensate. The ‘ageing problem’ is increasing all over the globe, but China must address its own problems. The CPC’s recent efforts to improve rural healthcare and create a better social insurance system were partly motivated by one realization: Many Chinese families are no longer able to adequately care for their elderly members.