Policies on Aging

Gables at East Mountain
Gables at East Mountain

An interesting article on Elder Rights in China was published in this month’s issue of The Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine. Author XinQi Dong, MD, MPH outlined the policies being enacted by the Chinese government to combat changing demographics and cultural expectations for filial duty.

Historically, Chinese families have seen filial piety as the highest of virtues in accordance with the treatise Classic of Filial Piety outlined by Confucius in the 4th century BC. However, these beliefs are being challenged by the Chinese people. In a recent survey by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on East Asian retirement practices only 4% of Chinese respondents believed children or family members should be responsible for proving support to older adults – the lowest percentage of all six Asian countries surveyed.

Although the One Child Policy restricting family size from 1980 to 2015 was repealed, the unintended consequence to demographics is palpable for many young workers. The realities of one working adult expected to support four grandparents and two parents are often overwhelming. Additionally, with the increase of industry around the country, many younger people are moving away from their homesteads in search of economic opportunity.

The disconnection between historical familial expectations and existing practices has forced the Chinese government to look for policy solutions to protect and support its 123 million residents (9% of the population) over 65.  In May of 2016 the Shanghai Ministry of Civil Affairs Bureau, a governmental agency ruling the largest city in China, implemented a new policy to protect older adults and shame children into supporting their families. Children found to lack devotion to their parents are placed on a ‘credit blacklist’, a tool used by the government to prevent individuals from activities such as opening a bank account, purchasing a home, or starting a business.

Dr. Dong, a professor at The Rush University Medical Center Institute for Healthy Aging, brings up an interesting and sensitive topic for many people across the globe – how do we care for our aging family members?

It is an honor to be a part of these discussions within our communities as we design senior living facilities that address the holistic needs of residents, their families and the community. Although we are far from any universal solution, it is encouraging to participate in the ongoing dialogue regarding aging with dignity and care.