Friday, November 7, 2008


Working to make ends meet for this senior citizen.

At a recent workshop I attended for retirees, one of the speakers was visibly upset by an article he had read in the local papers the day before. It was a news report of adult children chasing out their parents from the family house that rightfully and legally belonged to their parents.

Apparently, this is not an isolated case.

One of the core virtues enshrined in Confucianism is filial piety - the duty of adult children to care for their elderly parents. Unfortunately, this virtue is on the decline, even in China. The Chinese government had to step in with threats of public shame, fines and imprisonment for those found guilty of neglecting their elderly parents.

It's no different across Asia. In India, the government has passed the Senior Citizen Act, 2007, as an answer to the insecurities faced by older persons of the country. This Act accords prime responsibility for the maintenance of parents on their children, grand children or even relatives who may possibly inherit the property of a Senior Citizen.

In Singapore, the Maintenance of Parents Act was introduced in 1995, which makes it a legal obligation for children to maintain their parents. In 2006, 347 enquiries were made at the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents, up from 295 in 2004.

In Malaysia, the number of elderly parents ending up in old folks homes and shelters has increased over the years. Unlike in Singapore, adult children are not legally bound to provide care and maintenance for their elderly parents. This comes as no surprise though, as our country is always slow to act or react.

So, is filial piety becoming extinct? Thankfully, no. Last Sunday, I spent a delightful afternoon with three of my former high school mates, one of whom had invited us over to her house in the Taman Seputeh neighbourhood. It was a house straight out of Beautiful Homes magazines. Her son had bought it as a birthday gift for his parents. For most Chinese, providing a home for their parents is considered one of the cornerstones of filial piety.

The koi pond at Siew Hoey's lovely Japanese-themed house

Not everyone can afford such gifts for their parents. Nor do parents expect them. To my grandaunt family visits are the best presents. I am blessed that my two daughters and my sons-in-law are loving, caring and generous to a fault. They spoil me with holidays abroad and pick up the tab for all my medical expenses.

It takes very little to make our parents feel loved and happy. A phone call to ask how they are doing, a small gift of their favourite snacks, spending quality time with them, a warm hug now and then - all these don't cost much, but the joy they bring to our parents is priceless.

3 comments: said...

Sad, but maybe this new public attention to the issue will bring about public awareness and change.

FiShY~FiSh said...

dear seniorsaloud,

that's quite an eye-opening article on filial children. Could i get your permission to share this url on our FACEBOOK Page? i am with an NGO which is currently working on a nationwide programme called HOPE that stands for Honour Our Parents Everyday. Please feel free to drop in our Facebook page for more information at

seniorsaloud said...

You are most welcome to share any of SeniorsAloud's posts for a good cause. Just acknowledge the source. Thanks.