Business / Industries

Childless elderly arrange own funeral services

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2012-06-14 10:38

Childless elderly arrange own funeral services

An ordinary memorial ceremony was held in Shanghai on Monday, organized by funeral home workers instead of the children of the deceased.

"This is a new service for elderly people in the city who are childless. The project aims to help those people and relieve their worries," said Wu Xiaogang, a manager at the Shanghai Funeral and Interment Service Center.

The deceased, an 89-year-old man named Zhang, who had lived in a nursing home for years, had signed a agreement in April with the Shanghai Baoxing Funeral Home, which is affiliated with the service center.

The agreement records Zhang's arrangements and details about the ceremony.

"I just want my close friends to say goodbye to me and my ashes cast into the sea," reads the letter of authorization.

Zhang paid 1,000 yuan ($157) for the service. Wu said the charge varies according to the services requested.

The pilot program started in March last year after the municipal government required the elderly-care industry to do more for old couples with no offspring.

More than one in five Shanghai residents are aged 60 or older, almost double the national average, according to the Shanghai Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission.

"We've established a fund of 1 million yuan to assume the additional costs brought about by inflation and provide discounts for people who have little savings," Wu said.

Only six people have applied for the service, and all declined interview requests.

"The elderly usually shun topics related to death, which explains why we've received hundreds of phone calls for consultation, but very few people signed the agreement," Wu said.

Li Huizhen, a 79-year-old childless woman in Shanghai, whose husband has died, inquired several times about the service but finally gave up the idea.

"It will bring bad luck to think too much about this matter while I'm still in good condition. I'll still have the community committee to help me in the worst case," said Li, who has had osteoporosis for 10 years and is mostly confined to bed.

Some elderly people who have no children are reluctant to entrust a funeral home to arrange their final ceremony because of Chinese traditions, experts said.

"Chinese people believe it's important to have their sons support them in old age and hold a grand memorial ceremony for them," said Xia Xueluan, a sociology professor at Peking University, adding it might be hard for people to accept the new concept within a short time.

The Shanghai Funeral and Interment Service Center said it intends to promote the service to people whose children are seriously ill and cannot make arrangements for their parents.

Hot Topics

Editor's Picks