China Wants Grown Children To Help Care for Elderly Retirees

They call themselves "orphan grandparents" -- elderly people whose grown children have left for jobs in other cities, putting stresses on China's traditional three generation households. Here, a group of elderly women meet for a game of mahjong at the Xintu Center for Health Promotions in Shanghai. Photo: Mike Hricik/Penn State University/MCT

By Mike Hricik
McClatchy Tribune Newspapers
July 24, 2013

SHANGHAI — Yan Meiyue, 90, said her 72-year-old daughter rarely visits. She doesn't even come home at the annual Spring Festival when families traditionally get together. Yan has been a widow since her husband died nearly 10 years ago. She now spends every weekday at a modest community center near her home. There she plays the Chinese board game mahjong and eats meals prepared by a volunteer staff.

“The volunteers keep us company,” Yan said with a smile. She is one of a rapidly growing number of “orphan grandparents” who say they feel abandoned by their younger relatives, leaving them both lonely and struggling to make ends meet.

For centuries, elder citizens were traditionally treated with great respect in Chinese society. Younger relatives would usually look after their grandparents as they got older.

Yet in the modern world, families are being split up by China's growing wealth. Children and grandchildren are now moving to distant cities or countries. And the elderly feel like they have been left behind.

Read more here.

Note: Published in Los Angeles Times, Charleston Gazette, and elsewhere.


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