China Children Wash Feet of Retirees to Herald Elderly Care Law

Primary-school kids in China washed the feet of retirees and government officials hung banners in public squares to herald a new law on care for the elderly that includes requiring adult children to visit their parents.

The revised Law for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, which came into effect July 1, allows parents to sue children who fail to visit them often enough and requires companies to give their employees the necessary leave to do so. It maintains a previous ban on “ill-treatment and abandonment” of the elderly.

China’s new law takes effect as policy makers grapple with the cost of caring for an aging population, with the number of people 60 years or older set to double by 2053. Confucian beliefs that had traditionally called for children to care for parents have been eroded by a migration from farms to cities as the economy surged and the one-child policy limited births.

“Who doesn’t wish to serve their parents, but filial piety cannot withstand the pressures of time and money in a competitive society,” the official Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary published yesterday.

Xinhua on July 2 published pictures of students in Jiangsu province bathing the feet of the elderly at a local retirement home. The government of Henan province posted a statement yesterday on how officials in the city of Sanmenxia hung banners in a public square and distributed more than 1,000brochures to promote the new law.

In the first enforcement of the legislation, a woman in the eastern city of Wuxi was ordered by a local court on July 1 to visit her 77-year-old mother every two months and at least three times during major traditional holidays, Xinhua reported.

Aging Population

China’s working-age citizens age 15 to 59 fell as a share of the population last year, and the National Committee on Aging estimates people 60 years and older will rise to 487 million by 2053 from 185 million in 2011. The entire U.S. population is projected to reach about 406 million in 2053, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Chinese government, which passed the elderly-care law on Dec. 28, has pledged to improve the long-term care and benefits for senior citizens. Authorities have created an Elderly Day that will be celebrated each year in the fall and have said they’ll boost the number of beds in care facilities to 30 per 1,000 elderly people by 2015, from 20 now.

China will also accelerate development of standards for functions and designs that accommodate the elderly in buildings and public facilities, according to Xinhua.

— With assistance by Daryl Loo, Penny Peng, and Joshua Fellman

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