The story that is gaining media attention across the world centres on an 85-year-old man, Hans Zicheng. Hans posted a notice in his local bus shelter asking if a kind-hearted person would adopt him.
China’s population of 1.4 billion is rapidly ageing. The implementation of the ‘one-child’ policy in the 1970’s to limit population growth, nearly 50 years later has dire consequences for the ageing. There is simply not enough people in the workforce to support the ageing population. In addition, this policy has left China with 30 million more men than women. Then there is the question of ‘one child’ families whose child has died. There is reportedly 100,000 that fall into this category.
Hans hoped that a kind-hearted person or family would adopt him, nourish him through old age and bury his body when he was dead. According to website hellocaremail.com.au loneliness is a global problem, so much so that UK Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a Minister for Loneliness, whose role is to develop a national strategy to address social isolation.
Hans had two sons, one living in Canada and the other estranged. Hans’ story reflects so many elderly people, whose families are spread around the globe. In the final weeks of his life, Hans called The Beijing Love Delivery Hotline, designed to prevent suicide among the elderly. He was admitted to hospital which ironically, saved him from dying alone.
In Australia, we too, are facing a lack of sufficient options for our rapidly ageing population. The difference is, that in Australia, there are existing infrastructure (though insufficient and mostly dated) in place, national peak bodies for ageing and specialist agencies are established, there is a bi-partisan commitment on supplying government funding (though woefully under-resourced) and a wide range of commercial and not-for-profit community service agencies in place. It is the ratio of nursing and care professionals versus quality of care, that is the greatest area for concern.
Australian governments will need further initiatives to address the increasing isolation of many elderly people, which the Australia Bureau of Statistics estimates by 2036 will be approximately 3.4 million by 2036. In China, 15% of the population is over 60 years old and by 2040, the percentage will grow to 25%. While Australia is currently better off, it will only be the wealthy that will be able to dictate the level of quality care that they receive. Surely all Australian taxpayers, deserve the same right to high quality care?