Growing concerns over the well-being of China’s elderly population prompted a proposal by the Civil Affairs Ministry, that the law should require adult children to visit their elderly parents on a regular basis. Failure to do so would warrant grounds for legal action.
According to the New York Times, this proposal, submitted to China’s State Council last Monday, is a proposed amendment to the 1996 law on rights of the aged and may be considered by the National People’s Congress in March during it’s annual session.
The New York Times also reported that, Jing Jun, Sociology Professor at Tsinghua University said the national delegates are “rational enough”, and that the proposal is unlikely to pass. However, Ninie Wang, international director of the Gerontological Society of China, stands in favor of the proposal and believes that the society needs to be more considerate and “give the elderly more care and attention.”
Cause for alarm lies in the suicide rates among the elderly population in China, which ranks third in the World, behind South Korea and Taiwan. According to research done by Jun, suicide rates for people living in cities, ages 70-74, tripled between 2002 and 2009. Shifts in the familial structure and values have left the elderly population feeling lonely and forgotten as their children relocate and adopt different values.
The details for regulation of the proposed law have not been released and the specifics for how often the visits would need to take place is unclear. Although this law has the best interests of the elderly population in mind, I believe it unrealistic to order adult children to visit their parents, and I don’t believe you can place a mandate on how close a family should be.
According to The New York Times, the amendment also discusses the need for additional facilities, community care and in-home services for the elder population and instead of attempting to stretch into the relationships of these families, the law should focus on these tangible services.