Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 April 2022
The future of the old is a matter of concern for Chinese families and for the government. Increasing life expectancy, a dearth of good pensions and the expense of health care mean that old people may be a drain on their families’ resources. While still fit, grandmothers are a great benefit to their families, but when they become frail they may be a burden. As their lives lengthen they are supported by fewer descendants than would have been the case in earlier times. The desire for longevity, even immortality, is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Diet, medication, gentle exercise, prayer are all means to achieve longevity. There is a growing ‘silver market’ in China, to provide for the ederly, but retirement homes are not popular with old people and reflect poorly on a family.
COVID-19 has had a disastrous impact on the elderly in many countries. The impact in China is not known, though the virus seems to have done less damage in its country of origin than elsewhere.