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The proportion of elderly, aged 65+ in China, reached 7% of the total population in 1999 and China became a country of aged population as defined by the United Nations. The speed of the aging process in China will be among the fastest in the world. With a level of medium fertility and a medium level of mortality assumption, the elderly aged 65+ would quickly increase from 94 million (7% of the total population) in 2000 to 334 million (23.1% of the total) in 2050, while the number of the oldest old, age 80 and above in China would climb from about 12 million in 2000 to 51 million and to 114 million in 2030 and 2050 respectively. Under the low mortality scenario, Chinese elderly aged 65+ would be 407 million (26.5% of the total) and the oldest old, aged 80+ would number 161 million in the year 2050. Obviously, rapid population aging and its accompanied fastest growth of the oldest old, those much more likely to need help in daily life, is one of the most challenging issues that China is facing in the 21st century.

    The family is closely related to and remarkably important for healthy aging, and no kind of social units or organizations can replace the fundamental functions of the family. Given the Chinese cultural and socioeconomic context, the benefits of co-residence with children among the majority of Chinese elderly are not only financial and material support, but also psychological satisfaction. Filial piety has been one of the cornerstones of Chinese society for thousands of years and is still highly valued. The philosophical ideas of filial piety include not only respect for parents, even grandparents generations, but also the responsibility of children to take care of their aged parents. Families have been playing and should continue to play crucial roles in providing adequate psychological and material supports plus bearing the costs of caring for the elderly, given the limited pension and health services in China, especially in rural areas now. Meanwhile, society also needs to give their priorities to the development of old age insurance, social security and service programs for the elderly in both rural and urban areas. Such actions, based on in-depth research, are necessary in response to the challenges of the shrinking family support for the elderly from offspring due to rapid fertility reduction and mobility of children. 


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Center for Healthy Aging and Family Studies,
China center for Economic Research , Peking University, Beijing, 100871, P.R. China
Tel:86-10-62756914 ; Fax: 86-10-62756843
Contact person: Executive Associate Director: Prof. Liu Yuzhi: