ST. LOUIS -- Chinas efforts to control population growth in the present may cause problems for the countys senior citizens in the future.
This prediction comes from a Saint Louis University School of Medicine researcher who spent a year in China studying its geriatric policies and practices.
Joseph H. Flaherty, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine in the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University, said Chinas 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. Todays 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 youre 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 dont know whether that tradition is going to be strong enough to counterbalance the pressures of todays society.
Flaherty says those pressures include finding a job. Both men and women are expected to work in China today and the pressure to find work forces people to move around.
In the past, it was almost forbidden for you to move away from your family, your city or your village but now, its necessary if you want to find work. Are you going to take your 80-year-old parents with you" If youre married, are you going to take both sets of parents with you" These are questions I dont think were considered when the one-child policy was instituted.
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 (October 2005
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Saint Louis University