Sichuan province wants its younger generations to play a more active role in taking care of the elderly, encouraging them to live with their aging parents, local media reported Monday.
The plan is included in a provincial draft law that is currently under public review and part of a wider push to improve support for senior citizens.
Wang Yifan, a 29-year-old employee at an insurance firm in Chengdu, the capital of the Southwestern province, thinks the proposed policy is a positive step but hardly groundbreaking. To him, it would just formalize the choice Chinese families have faced for a while, between letting your parents live with you and sending them to a nursing home, he told Sixth Tone.
Traditionally, several generations in a Chinese family have lived under one roof. Children are expected to care for their parents into old age, but Chinese increasingly prefer to live independently. At the same time, due to China’s decadeslong policy of limiting families to just one child, many of today’s adults face the so-called 4-2-1 problem, where one couple takes care of four seniors, as well as their own children.
“It’s a bit of a conflict,” said Liao Qi, another Chengdu resident. “I don’t think this measure is exactly good.” Liao said her time is divided between her child, her in-laws, and her parents, and while the grandparents can help with child care, they might not always be willing to take on that duty. Liao said her parents, too, would rather live independently.
“But as they grow old, they might get sicker and completely depend on us,” Liao said. “It’s a lot of pressure.”
As China rapidly ages — the country will be home to 225 million people aged 60 and above by 2020 — it grapples with issues ranging from a declining workforce to a dearth of facilities offering elderly care. In Sichuan, senior citizens will account for nearly a quarter of the province’s population by 2020, and authorities want to ensure that the health facilities are equipped to meet that demand.
Sichuan’s goal is to make 60 percent of its urban areas and 40 percent of its rural communities “elderly proof” by the next decade. It plans to do this by improving care available at home, by providing stipends for the economically disadvantaged, and by adding more community centers. The province also plans to add more beds in medical facilities so they can accommodate 30 percent of the elderly population by 2020.
The national government is also investing in community centers specifically intended for the elderly. Last year, there were increases in elderly care agencies, community-based elderly service organizations, and community-based support groups where elderly residents care for one another.
Some provinces are also drafting laws that would allow single children to have paid time off from work to spend more time with their parents, while others are taking a step further. Central China’s Hubei province, for example, is proposing laws to protect senior citizens’ rights to love and marry so they can find partners during their twilight years, making them less dependent on their offspring.
Additional reporting: Savannah Billman; editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: A woman guides her young daughter and elderly mother across a road in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province, May 12, 2012. VCG)