Sunday, January 14, 2007

For the last two years, Bi Zuying, 81, has been living in the Baiyun Home for the Elderly in Dalian, in northeast Liaoning province, where the elderly population is growing faster than in Shanghai or Beijing.

Bi doesn't want to burden the three sons and one daughter she raised single-handedly after her husband died 20 years ago. "I don't have to cook, I don't have to clean house ... I don't have to wash clothes," said Bi, who pays $77 a month in rent.

But like the other residents, she admits to a growing lack of filial piety in modern China as children worry more about their paychecks than their parents. Bi still supports two unemployed sons on her small state pension and she has a daughter-in-law who doesn't like her cooking.

At the end of 2005, there were 144 million people in China over 60 years of age, a number officials say is increasing by about 100 million every decade.

In less than 20 years, large parts of China will have to support very aged populations on low average income levels, according to Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute. He calls it a "slow motion humanitarian tragedy already underway."