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More seniors choose to live in nursing homes as population ages

China’s population is getting old, and more seniors are now in need of care. An increasing number of the country’s aged people now choose to live in nursing homes rather than spend their “golden years” with their children.

Chinese tradition dictates children are responsible for looking after their aging parents. So what has led to this change?

In China, it’s a deeply rooted belief that children should care for their aging parents at home. There’s stigma in sending parents to nursing homes, which is seen as abandoning one’s responsibility.

But China’s senior population is soaring, and many of these seniors’ offspring have to work full-time to make both ends meet. This makes sticking to tradition near impossible. Given the circumstances, nursing homes are becoming more acceptable.

Lu Bin, the director at Beijing Everbright Huichen Nursing Home, recalls the development of the nursing home.

“When opened the nursing home in 2007, it was very hard to attract senior citizens because neither their children nor themselves accepted this new approach to living an elder life,” Bin said.

“But they gradually changed their minds, and in 2010, the occupancy rate exceeded over 70 percent. And now our nursing home is fully occupied, with over 300 people on the waiting list.”

For many of the senior citizens whose material lives have greatly improved over the decades, there comes the need of pursuing a higher spiritual life. And nursing homes seem to provide them with more options to develop other interests.

China is greying at an unprecedented rate. The United Nations said China is expected to have over half a billion people over the age of 60 by the year 2050, exceeding the entire population of the United States.

The rise of nursing homes has helped ease pressure brought by China’s aging society. But most of these facilities are in cities, while many of their potential residents live in rural areas. There’s still a long way to go to make sure the country ages gracefully.