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Written by Richard Griffin   
Monday, July 29 2013 15:19

Were you to be asked which country least needs to urge its young adults to visit their parents, what nation would you choose? Almost surely China, right?


Wrong!  This July, the government there put into practice a new law requiring them to do so.  It’s called “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People.” And it means business.


Among its demands are these three: Go home often; Occasionally send greetings; and work places should provide time off.


Who would have thought that the country of Confucius would have needed such legislation? After all, he urged on everyone the virtue of filial piety.  And the importance of this view has marked Chinese life over the centuries.


What changed society enough to make the new law needed? In a word, urbanization.  So many Chinese have moved from the countryside into cities.  That migration has left many older people without the support of their grown-up children. 


And that support is not merely physical.  It’s also spiritual.  Older people now miss having offspring within range.  They feel deprived of seeing the children who can buoy them up in their later years.


I remember seeing something like this in Boston.  There I once visited a group of older Chinese immigrants. Some of them had been more or less abandoned by their children.  The latter had moved to the suburbs and were flourishing there.  But their parents were not.


How well do Americans respond to the needs of parents grown old?  Maybe I know the wrong people, but I think they respond rather well.  Most of them devote time and energy taking care of their elders or providing the means for professional help. Almost surely, this response applies much more to women than it does for men.


I’m rooting for the deserted elders of China to benefit from their country’s new law. And I hope we Americans take it as encouragement for our own reaching out to parents in need.