Yel­low rib­bons help the el­derly call from empty nests in Yanji

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By XIN­HUA in Changchun

El­derly res­i­dents of a Korean eth­nic com­mu­nity in North­east China’s Jilin prov­ince at­tach yel­low rib­bons to their win­dows, a sign that they need as­sis­tance.

At the be­gin­ning of her day, Wang Shuqing, chief of the Dany­ing com­mu­nity in Yanji, gets up at 5:30 am to walk around the area.

“I need to check if any rib­bons are tied to win­dows and see what I can do to help,” Wang said.

Yanji, cap­i­tal of the Yan­bian Korean au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture, home to the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of eth­nic Kore­ans in China, has seen large num­bers of its young people leave for the Repub­lic of Korea or China’s east­ern and south­ern re­gions to seek jobs. The el­derly are of­ten left be­hind, liv­ing alone in empty nests.

Yan­bian pre­fec­ture has an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 350,000 el­derly, and its govern­ment is cop­ing with the sit­u­a­tion in var­i­ous ways, in­clud­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the yel­low rib­bons.

Wang said there are more than 900 empty-nesters, about 10 per­cent of the res­i­dents, in her com­mu­nity.

The el­derly may need as­sis­tance in their homes or with some shop­ping. But the yel­low rib­bons are far from enough, es­pe­cially when there’s an emer­gency, Wang said.

Tele­phones have been mod­i­fied so that the el­derly can con­tact com­mu­nity work­ers by press­ing a sin­gle but­ton.

In ru­ral ar­eas, the sit­u­a­tion is more dif­fi­cult for empty-nest fam­i­lies.

Zheng Mingzi, 79, said she has strug­gled since her hus­band died this year, leav­ing her to en­dure lone­li­ness as her chil­dren live abroad.

In 2009, Yan­bian pre­fec­ture’s govern­ment be­gan build­ing res­i­den­tial court­yards for the el­derly in ru­ral vil­lages. People can en­ter­tain them­selves with games like mahjong or chess, or join singing or dancing groups.

So far, 1,048 such court­yards have been set up across the pre­fec­ture.

Hong Qing, the pre­fec­ture’s deputy chief, said the govern­ment is still fac­ing many prob­lems in cop­ing with the emp­tynest prob­lem, es­pe­cially since the el­derly pop­u­la­tion is ris­ing fast.

Sta­tis­tics from the pre­fec­ture show that the el­derly pop­u­la­tion will ex­ceed 500,000 by 2020, a stag­ger­ing in­crease from the cur­rent 350,000.

“We are try­ing to im­prove in­fra­struc­ture, build as­so­ci­a­tions for the el­derly, and use leg­is­la­tion to en­sure a more sta­ble and col­or­ful life for empty-nest fam­i­lies,” Hong said.

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