I miss my old pals. I re­ally hope I can go back and sing Huang­mei Opera with them.”

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - China - Douzhir, douzhir hukou, hukou

“Peo­ple back in Huain­ing envy me for liv­ing in Bei­jing, but I’m jeal­ous that they can stay at home with old friends and rel­a­tives,” she said.

Walk­ing a tightrope

More­over, car­ing for her grand­son full time was like walk­ing a tightrope ev­ery day. “I could not al­low ac­ci­dents to hap­pen to him. My life was ba­si­cally cen­tered on him,” she said, adding that cook­ing, feed­ing the baby, play­ing with him and lulling him to sleep left her lit­tle time for her­self.

Jiang Xiangqun, deputy di­rec­tor of the Geron­tics Re­search Cen­ter at Ren­min Univer­sity, said se­nior peo­ple have a strong at­tach­ment to their na­tive places and longterm re­la­tion­ships.

“Be­ing cut off from their fa­mil­iar en­vi­ron­ment leads to a range of psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems, which many sons and daugh­ters ne­glect,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Sta­tis­ti­cal Science Re­search Cen­ter of the Na­tional Bureau of Sta­tis­tics in Au­gust, a lack of so­cial ac­tiv­ity re­sults in about 25 per­cent of se­niors feel­ing iso­lated, anx­ious and de­pressed.

Five years ago, Zhang Shuqin, left her home in the north­east­ern prov­ince of Hei­longjiang and moved to Bei­jing to live with her daugh­ter.

Un­like many of her se­nior drifter peers, Zhang came to the cap­i­tal fol­low­ing re­tire­ment, and be­liev­ing that the end of her work­ing life sig­naled a new beginning. How­ever, it still took time and ef­fort to fit in.

When she first ar­rived in Bei­jing, she went to a restau­rant for break­fast. She no­ticed that an el­derly cou­ple had or­dered bowls of or fer­mented mung bean milk. As­sum­ing that was Bei­jing di­alect for soy­bean milk, she or­dered a bowl, too, but “the sour taste al­most made me vomit”. She quar­reled with the owner and ac­cused him of sell­ing spoiled food. Later, she dis­cov­ered that the drink is a Bei­jing spe­cialty.

To avoid fur­ther em­bar­rass­ment and blend in, the then50-year-old be­gan read­ing about the cap­i­tal’s cus­toms and his­tory, and vis­it­ing fa­mous tourist spots.

Now, she talks about Bei­jing as though she has lived in the city for decades. “Even my neigh­bor, who is a real Bei­jinger, calls me a half-Bei­jinger,” she said.

De­spite her greater fa­mil­iar­ity a se­nior in Bei­jing with the cap­i­tal, Zhang still en­coun­ters ob­sta­cles ev­ery day, such as a lack of med­i­cal in­surance.

The is­sue is not just a press­ing prob­lem at her age, but also a con­stant re­minder of the gulf be­tween her and na­tive Bei­jingers.

To claim re­im­burse­ment of med­i­cal costs, se­nior drifters like Zhang have to travel hun­dreds or even thou­sands of kilo­me­ters to their home­towns and go through com­pli­cated pro­ce­dures.

The rea­son is that the sys­tem is based on a per­son’s

or house­hold reg­is­tra­tion, which means med­i­cal costs in­curred away from home can only be re­im­bursed in the place where a pa­tient’s

is reg­is­tered, usu­ally their home­town.

Chen Lizhen,

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