May 25, 2011

CHINA: "You Barely Ever Call" - Depression on the rise in the Elderly

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SHANGHAI / Shanghaiist.com / May 25, 2011

Photo courtesy: shanghaiist.com

By Fan Huang

It appears that feeling guilty about ignoring your parents isn't good enough for Chinese lawmakers. The Law Enforcement Inspection Committee, a group associated with the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, is in the process of revising the Elderly Rights and Interests Protection Law.

Implemented in 1996, the law could possibly be amended to include a new policy called 'Go Home Often and Visit' (常回家看看), that would require adult children to go see their parents once in a while.

In the drafting of a new article titled 'Spiritual Consolation', lawmakers stated that

'Family members should not ignore and isolate the elderly',

especially those that 'lived separately from caregivers, and should be visited often and asked after'.

Opponents of the law argue that legalizing such a personal moral obligation would undermine the authority of the law. Yu Xiangyang of the Shandong Academy of Social Sciences Research Institute declares that the encouragement and promotion of laws that are 'too vague' is 'not conducive to implementation'.

Regardless of the feasibility of any legal requirements for family conduct, the proposed policies reflect a serious concern about the plight of China's elderly population.

China Daily reports that in a survey of 4,900 elderly citizens over 55 living in urban areas, nearly 40 percent expressed feelings of depression, a 30 percent increase from 20 years ago.

Director of the survey Li Juan states that causes for the increase in depression include urbanization, the speed of societal change, and living apart from their children in empty nests:

"I feel quite lonely sometimes," said Xia Cuiping, an 86-year-old woman who has lived alone since her husband's death.

"I always wanted my children to come back to visit me, but they have to take care of their own families and are very busy at work."

Xia's two daughters live not far away from her in Shanghai. Yet, despite being so close, they only come to visit her once a week.

As for her two sons, both are businessmen who spend most of their time abroad and can only find time to come to her house once a year during the Chinese New Year.

"I am not blaming them for that," Xia said. "After all, they have their own lives."

And as the nation's elderly population increases, with 13.26 of the country's population over the age of 60 in 2010 (nearly a 3 percent increase from 2000), the needs of the elderly are only going to become more prevalent.

Information on the 'Go Home Often and Visit' policy translated from Sohu

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