China is home to an alarming fact: more than 500,000 elderly people go missing every year. That is 1300 people aged over 65 are reported lost every single day. Where are these elderly people disappearing? What is happening to them and who is responsible?
China’s law has legislated that children are responsible to house their parents. However, China’s one-child policy, introduced in 1978, restricted people from having more than one child, unless the first child was a girl, or they belonged to an ethnic minority. According to the Chinese government, this policy prevented approximately 400 million births. Consequently, the generation which had children in the 70s, which is the over-65 population now, has to depend on their sole child through their old age. If a child has died or moved away from home for work, these elderly people have no one to care for them. To make their plight worse, it is reported that a large percentage of these elderly suffer from dementia and alzheimer’s, or some other memory impairment. Of those who are found, 25% go missing again, in the absence of a support network or close family to care for them.
The one-child law was finally changed by the Chinese government on 1 January 2016, replacing it with a two-child policy. This is too small and too late a step to undo the monumental damage already done.There are 114 million people over 65 at present in China, the biggest elderly population in the world, and another 90 million are expected to reach retirement in the next 30 years. This is indeed a crisis of unimaginable proportion unless steps are taken to prevent further loss of life and to ensure the well being of these missing millions.