Family Support for Old People

clip image002 thumb4 Family Support for Old PeopleA nationwide survey found that about 23 percent of China’s seniors over the age of 65 live by themselves. Another survey conducted in Beijing showed that less than 50 percent of elderly women live with their children. Since more and more elderly have to live alone, homes for the elderly are far form being enough to meet the needs of the elderly.

China’s family structure has changed dramatically in recent years. In traditional Chinese society, the elderly used to live with one of their children. But nowadays, more and more young adults are moving out, leaving their elderly parents alone. Many young couples now live with their parents not for family tradition, but rather because they cannot afford to buy a house or rent an apartment. 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 elderly have to face nowadays is how to arrange their late years when their families can’t take care of them.

In rural areas the family is still the major welfare provider for old people. Although the implementation of this role has varied significantly, in different historical periods, owing to social and economic changes in the rural environment, the core functions of the family have remained the same, that is, the provision of welfare for dependants, particularly for the aged.

In the more traditional China, providing care for the aged was indeed assumed to be a paramount function of the family. Whereas, following the founding of the PRC in 1949, the welfare function of the family was reduced, as a result of the collectivization of the rural economy, which meant a part of family responsibilities being shared by collective organizations. However, after more than twenty years’ experience of agricultural collectivization, China embarked on a course of further rural economic reform in the early 1980s, replacing the commune system with one of private production based on the family unit. As a result, rural welfare responsibilities were shifted back from the commune to the family, which become solely responsible for providing support for its dependent members.

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