SHANGHAI: Japan is ageing. So, too, is Italy. And China is catching up.
The situation is getting more serious in big cities such as Shanghai and
Beijing, with one out of five above 60 in the eastern metropolis.
"Shanghai has become an ageing society earlier because the birth rate started
to decrease in the 1960s while it was peaking in other cities across the
country," said Zuo Xuejin, executive vice-president of the Shanghai Academy of
As China honoured its elderly on the Chongyang Festival (the ninth day of the
ninth month of the lunar calendar) yesterday, it is becoming evident how large
an issue ageing is playing.
"The problem doesn't exist only in Shanghai," Zuo said. "It will happen
nationwide soon. It's just a matter of time."
After Shanghai, the places with the fastest-growing elderly populations are
Tianjin, Jiangsu Province, Beijing and Zhejiang Province, according to figures
the China National Committee on Ageing released in February.
And with Zuo predicting that the percentage of people 65 and over will double
to 30 per cent in the next two decades, issues surrounding the elderly are
demanding more attention.
Many elderly in the cities prefer to live with their children after they
retire. In return, they look after their grandchildren, often do all the
housework and even subsidize their children to some degree.
But how well are the grandparents cared for? An employee surnamed Zhang at
the Yixiang Senior Citizens' Home in Shanghai said not that well, and he's not
talking about only institutionalized seniors.
"Young people sometimes squeeze their parents until the last of their
strength comes out and neglect them," Zhang said.
Pan Xiumin, 59, observed that some of the younger generation, most of who
come from one-child families, are selfish and lazy.
"It worries me a lot," said Pan, who, with her husband, often visits their
daughter to do housework.
"We are worried about the future, when we are too old to work for them. But
more importantly, who will look after us?"
The desire not to be a burden to their children may be behind the results of
a recent survey.
Of 1,285 senior people interviewed, 54.4 per cent do not want to live with
their children, said Zhou Shangyi, an associate professor of Beijing Normal
University, who conducted the research.
Zuo added that it is unrealistic for a working adult to spend all his or her
time looking after a disabled elderly relative, especially one over 75.
Therefore, he said, society should take more responsibility.
Improvement of the welfare service is essential, by establishing more senior
housing and nursing centres to meet the demand, he said.
"Another problem is how to pay for the services," Zuo said. "Adding the cost
of nursing to social insurance probably needs to be considered."
The problem is that the contributions by today's workforce still leave the
pension fund about 2.5 trillion yuan (US$321.5 billion) short, said Cao
Bingliang, vice-director of the China National Committee on Ageing.
What's more, Li Meifen, chief of the Yixing Senior Citizens' Home, said that
even though family members may be living in facilities for the elderly, that
doesn't mean they don't need care and love.
"People should bear in mind that the disabled elderly still have emotions and
feelings," Li said.
"It is a crying shame to hear them say that the social workers here treat
them better than their own children."