In China’s cities, el­derly mi­grants live on the edge

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA

There are 18 mil­lion peo­ple aged 60 and older who spend more than six months a year liv­ing away from their reg­is­tered home­towns, ac­cord­ing to a mi­grant pop­u­la­tion re­port re­leased by China’s Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion last month.

Un­likey­oung­mi­grants, who are quick-learn­ers and have large so­cial cir­cles in big cities, the el­derly have fewer friends and less ac­cess to health­care, of­ten find­ing it hard to adapt to an alien world.

Zhang Zhen­hui, 62, is a na­tive ofHezhou city, Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion. His son works in real es­tate in the re­gional cap­i­talNan­ning.

In 2013, when Zhang’s daugh­ter-in-law was about to give birth, Zhang and his wife moved toNan­ning to look af­ter the baby.

Now that his grand­son is go­ing to en­ter kinder­garten, Zhang has told his son that they are leav­ing to take care of a sec­ond grand­child, to be de­liv­ered by his daugh­ter back home.

“Ac­tu­ally, it is just an ex­cuse; we are tired of liv­ing here,” Zhang said.

He de­scribed babysit­ting as tir­ing and bor­ing, adding that his son and daugh­ter-in-law sel­dom talk to him af­ter work, mak­ing Zhang and his wife feel even more lonely.

In China, where most young women have jobs, chil­dren are usu­ally looked af­ter by their grand­par­ents. While young peo­ple flow into the big cities to earn a liv­ing, their par­ents of­ten join them to help out with the chil­dren.

In the past two years, with China in­tro­duc­ing a uni­ver­sal sec­ond-child pol­icy, such ar­range­ments are even more com­mon.

Ac­cord­ing to the fam­ily plan­ning com­mis­sion re­port, up to 43 per­cent of el­derly mi­grants take care of their grand­chil­dren.

While many se­nior cit­i­zens leave their home­town to look af­ter their grand­chil­dren, oth­ers head to cities to have their fam­ily look af­ter them. Xu Shouye, 71, is one of them.

Af­ter his wife died two years ago, Xu moved from a ru­ral area in He­nan prov­ince to ChongqingMu­nic­i­pal­ity in South­west China, where his son works.

“My son will not let me go out­side, be­cause he thinks I will get lost,” Xu said. “It is like a cage.”

Zou Shunkang, a pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­fes­sor at South­west Univer­sity in Chongqing, called for young peo­ple to talk with their par­ents and ad­dress their emo­tions.

He sug­gested vol­un­teers and so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions of­fer more ser­vices for se­niors.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ments should step up ef­forts to ad­dress re­gional dis­par­i­ties in so­cial ben­e­fits so that mi­grants of all ages can have their med­i­cal ex­penses cov­ered,” he said.

Num­ber of peo­ple aged 60 and older who spend more than six months a year liv­ing away from their home­towns

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