In an unprecedented move, the Chinese legislative arm has empowered elderly parents who feel frustrated and weakened by their adult children’s gross neglect by passing into law a “Parent Abandonment Bill.” Adult children are now legally required to visit their old parents and show some love, or have charges pressed against them by said parents.
Clearly, the law is a transparent reflection of the massive cultural changes taking place in this developed country, and by extension, the rest of (East) Asia. Communalism and community seem to be crumbling in favor of the fast-paced individualist lifestyle in China, while the orthodox extended family is fading, according to the Associated Press. The time-worn tradition that had elderly parents living in the care of their adult children or other family members seems to have become old-fashioned, and nursing homes — which were previously regarded as expensive or insulting, or both — have now become the norm.
The rapid rise in China’s elderly population has come with a proportionate increase in the number of reported cases of senior citizen abuse. China’s state media relayed the story of one son in the plush province of Jiangsu, who apparently coerced his 100-year-old mother to live in a pigsty for two whole years, according to the AP. Between 2007 and 2009, a 13% spike in the reported number of elder-abuse cases has been seen in Greater China, the South China Morning Post disclosed four years ago.
The director of a well-known advocacy group, Against Elderly Abuse, revealed to the South Post: “Because of Chinese culture, elderly people are reluctant to reveal the disgraceful affairs of their families.” This admission, no doubt, tells just how bad the negligence and abuse issues are, as a myriad of cases go unreported by the sheepish victims.
The new law doesn’t declare how often children must visit their parents — this means that there may not be enough grounds for any resulting lawsuit. China now boasts numbers in excess of 167 million people over the age of 60, reports the BBC, so this familial law ostensibly serves two basic uses: preserving the family unit that may be starting to fray, and reducing the expensive burden on institutions sworn to take care of the aged.
It goes without saying that anyone with a bit of a conscience does well by sustaining elderly parents, especially after they have done so much diaper-changing in their day.