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October 26, 2011

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City households get smaller

THE size of households in the city is shrinking, leaving more seniors living alone, the Shanghai Research Center on Aging said yesterday.

At present in Shanghai, the average household size is 2.49 people per household - 0.3 less than in 2004.

Officials said as more and more city residents choose lifestyles closer to those in Western countries, people tend to live in nuclear rather than extended family groups.

After marrying, fewer couples are now prepared to stay with parents.

Young people say they have a very different lifestyle to their parents' generation, and that living under the same roof would lead to serious disputes over every tiny issue.

Zhang Weiyi, who will soon tie the knot, said her fiance's parents asked the couple to live with them after they marry, but she declined.

"I don't want to have endless conflict with my mother-in-law," she said. "So I believe keeping a distance is the best way to avoid trouble."

But Zhang has agreed to buy an apartment near her in-laws' home, so she and her husband can take care of the seniors when required.

Yin Zhigang, deputy director of the center, said traditional Chinese culture requires young people - whether or not they are married - to take care of seniors.

But the decline of the extended family has left more seniors without family care in their own homes.

At present, 45 percent of seniors in Shanghai don't live with their children or any other young relatives.

However, the government estimates that 90 percent of seniors are looked after by their families.

"The community and government can provide some help and subsidies for seniors," said Yin. "But a very positive factor in traditional Chinese family culture is the responsibility and obligation among family members."

Yin said although communities can help with physical requirements, the elderly still want their families to communicate with them and provide psychological comfort.

"Emotional exchange between family members is what seniors need badly nowadays," he said.

Yin said children should not forget about their parents when they have their own families.

Within five years, an estimated 4.3 million Shanghai residents will be aged over 60. About 200,000 people will reach that figure every year from now until 2015 - double the annual figure in the past five years, according to the center.


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