One-Child Policy Could Backfire on Elderly -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

This prediction comes from a Saint Louis University School of Medicine researcher: Joseph H. Flaherty, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine in the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University, said China’s 1979 policy of limiting couples to one child may leave some older Chinese without a family member to care for them.

“Everything is fine right now. Today’s older Chinese had no restrictions so they had five or six children. They have plenty of caregivers. But these caregivers were limited to having a single child. What happens in 30 years when they turn 80? Their support will fall entirely on that only child. And, what if that child marries? Now you’re talking about caring for four older adults.

The Chinese tradition of taking care of your family is strong - maybe the strongest in the world - but I don’t know whether that tradition is going to be strong enough to counterbalance the pressures of today’s society.” Flaherty notes that couples with money can hire a baomu, a type of live-in maid who provides care for an older person. But while this person may have eldercare training there are no standards.

Flaherty spent a year visiting Chinese homes, universities, hospitals and nursing homes in three major cities: Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu - all cities with populations of more than ten million. Flaherty says that by 2030, 336 million Chinese will be over the age of 60. If the burden of care for senior citizens shifts from family to facilities, such as nursing homes, the country would be unprepared.

While China has nursing homes, it has far fewer than most developed countries. It is predicted that Beijing alone would have to construct as much as 48 new nursing homes a year to keep up with the aging population.; Source: Saint Louis University