Centenarian Couple Happy to Spend Twilight Years in Welfare Home

December 4, 2013
Editor: Liu Yunting

Centenarian Couple Happy to Spend Twilight Years in Welfare Home
Xu Yunxiang and Zhao Damei do needle work together at the social welfare home in the Pudong New Area in eastern China's Shanghai Municipality on November 30, 2013. They have been married for over 80 years and currently live a happy life at the welfare home. [Xinhua]
Xu Yunxiang and Zhao Damei have been married for more than 80 years and are currently living a happy life at the social welfare home in the Pudong New Area in eastern China's Shanghai Municipality.

Xu was born in December 1912 and his wife was born in March 1911. They have seven children now, with the eldest being over 80 years old. More than 10 years ago, Xu and Zhao asked to move into a welfare home so that they could enjoy the company of other senior citizens.

They say that they are satisfied with their life at the welfare home, where they are taken good care of by the working staff. Their relatives also visit them frequently.

A recent survey showed that an increasing number of Chinese senior citizens are willing to live in nursing homes instead of having their adult children care for them, subverting the traditional Chinese family value of bringing up children to provide for one's old age.

As the only country in the world that has a senior citizen population reaching 100 million, China faces a severe ageing society problem. In addition, the shrinking family structure in the country means that adult children have less energy to take good care of their parents.

In traditional Chinese society, elderly parents typically lived with their adult children, but nowadays, more and more young adults are moving out, leaving their parents alone. Experts say family-based care is now impractical because most middle-aged children have little time to take care of their parents. So one of the things the senior citizens have to face nowadays is how to arrange their twilight years when their families are not able to take care of them.

More and more Chinese senior citizens are changing their values, saying that their choice of living at nursing homes doesn't mean their children are not filial.

Statistics from the China National Committee on Aging (CNCA) show that the number of Chinese citizens over the age of 60 is expected to hit 200 million by the end of 2013 and 221 million in 2015, including 51 million 'empty nesters,' or elderly people whose children no longer live with them. The number is predicted to skyrocket to 487 million, or 35 percent of the population, by 2053.

Experts have urged authorities to draw experience from developed countries in order to reduce uncertainties and risks in this matter. They also recommend improving economic and health support for senior citizens, building more facilities for senior residents in both urban and rural areas, encouraging them to participate in social activities and establishing a medical treatment network for the ageing population.

A series of activities to improve the living conditions of senior citizens and raise public awareness of the importance of respecting them has been held each October, the National Senior Citizens Month, since 2010.

Earlier this year, the CNCA released a notice announcing that October 13 this year will be the first official festival in China to celebrate the elderly. The date will change in subsequent years as it will be based on the traditional Chinese Double Ninth Festival, which falls on the ninth day of the ninth month according to the lunar calendar.

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