Last Wednesday (10 July), I was a guest on Capital fm88.9 Morning Show. I had been invited to give my views on recent headline news about adult children abandoning their elderly parents. This interest was prompted by the new “Elderly Rights Law” introduced in China last month to deal with the growing problem of lonely elderly people who are neglected by their adult children. With the enforcement of the law, it is now mandatory for adult children to visit their elderly parents.
A similar law, the Maintenance of Parents Act, exists in countries like Singapore, India and the Philippines. In Singapore, for example, parents may seek legal assistance from the Tribunal for Maintenance of Parents to compel their adult children to provide financial support.
|Source: The Star July 6|
The traditional family structure has changed. Adult children move out of the family home as soon as they are financially independent, leaving their parents to age on their own or in a retirement home. With more young people working in other cities or countries, it has become a norm for them to see their parents only during festive occasions. Burdened with multiple loans to pay off and with the high cost of living, young families are already struggling to take care of their little ones, let alone their elderly parents.
|Abandoned old folks waiting out their final years. Where are their family members?|
While we can understand why some adult children fail to visit their parents regularly or do not provide adequate financial support for them, we cannot condone the act of abandoning their parents. That is absolutely despicable and unforgivable. For many elderly parents, often all they want is just to be remembered with an occasional visit or phone call. Is that too much to ask? Is it any wonder that depression and thoughts of suicide is on the rise among senior citizens living in the cities.
|Source: Department of Statistics, Singapore|
Worldwide, a rise in the ageing population and a decline in fertility means fewer working people to support an ever growing number of elderly people. In Singapore, the number of elderly citizens will triple to 900,000 by 2030. Malaysia will become an aging nation by 2030 when the population above 60 years is expected to reach 15 per cent or 4.9 million. In China, there were more than 178 million people aged 60 years or older in 2010. By 2030, that figure will double.
With 2030 only 16 years away, financial support and care of elderly parents will continue to be a huge challenge for adult children and for the government.
My advice? Take care of yourself, your health, your money. Save enough for your sunset years. Adopt an active lifestyle so that hefty medical expenses don't swallow up your savings. Don't expect your children to take care of you in your old age. They may not be able to, even if they want to. Filial piety is dying, no thanks to the harsh realities of living in a rapidly changing world that has no place for the elderly.