China / Society

Survey says village life still appeals to elderly

By Xu Wei (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-09 07:30

Despite some hardships, most express satisfaction with situation

Most elderly people who live in villages are satisfied with their lives, even though they are far from their children, struggle to obtain healthcare and services for the aged and are still working on family farms or in other endeavors, a survey found.

The report released on Sunday by researchers at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics found that 81.3 percent of elderly people were satisfied with their current state of life and 86.5 percent were happy with their relationships with their children.

"A majority of the elderly people say they are unwilling to join their children in urban areas because they are more accustomed to life in rural areas and they have natural emotional attachment to the land where they have been working and living for generations," said Zhang Xiong, a professor of economics philosophy at the university who led the research group.

The report was based on a survey in 2014 of 10,421 elderly residents of 731 villages across the country.

The research found that more than half (54.6 percent) of the senior citizens in rural areas still work in agriculture to make a living. Additionally, more than a quarter (26.5 percent) reported relying on sons and daughters for a majority of their income.

"The notion of labor has been so ingrained in their minds that almost all the elderly people polled in rural areas are conducting some degree of family work, if they are not working in their farms," Zhang said.

The report also found low incomes was widespread among the rural elderly, which was partially attributed to a lack of awareness about financial investments and opportunities to profit from such investments.

China's urbanization drive also has posed challenges to the elderly because as young people moved to urban areas, the senior citizens are left without family care. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 54.8 percent of the country's population lived in urban areas last year.

"Our survey showed that the rural elders have much less access to the aged-care facilities than in urban areas," Zhang said. "It also showed that the wealth of the rural residents cannot be effectively converted into ways that can guarantee their quality of life in old age."

Only half (52 percent) of the elderly people polled were content with available elderly care facilities in their villages. Many villages are far from hospitals.

"For them, the problem of receiving medical care is made even more severe by the poor public transportation in rural areas. The fact that their children don't live with them means that nobody can take them to hospitals when they get ill," Zhang said.

China has nearly 50 million elderly rural residents who face problems because their children have left, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Problems in rural areas include a lack of daily care and spiritual comfort, and insufficient professional care services for the disabled, the ministry said in a statement in September 2013.

In the Shanghai University survey, more than half of the elderly faced such problems.

"The absence of young people further aggravates the situation, as care for the elderly and the young and disabled will only become more difficult as the urbanization rate grows," Zhang said.

The ministry said it would encourage the development of aged care facilities and day care centers in rural areas and expand funding for those services.

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