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A lonely burden for only children

Updated: 2016-08-29 07:59
By Luo Wangshu (China Daily)

A lonely burden for only children

Retirees Jiang Weimao, 60,(right) and his wife Zhang Yinxiu, 53, have dinner with Zhang's parents at their home in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province. Jiang and Zhang's only child was born in 1984 and died from diabetes in 2010. [Photo/Agencies]

Many people born under China's former family planning policy, which restricted most couples to one child, are finding it increasingly difficult to provide care for their elderly parents. Luo Wangshu reports.

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of reports China Daily will publish looking at the lives of elderly people, the problems they face and ongoing efforts to improve their standards of living. More stories will be published in the weeks to come.

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of Su Yao's departure for the United States, but she is planning to return home during the Christmas holidays, instead of the anniversary.

If the trip goes ahead, it will be the fourth time that Su has visited her home country in a decade.

"I have many plans for the time I will be at home, such as buying a new TV and computer, surfing the Chinese internet, installing a chess game on the computer for my father, running bank errands with my mother and other things," she said, adding that she started writing her to-do-list two years ago, during her last visit to China.

Most of her plans revolve around her parents, who live in Harbin, capital of the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, and will retire soon.

"When I came to the US I could never set my mind at ease because my parents were far away from me and I couldn't stop worrying about them, even over trivial things that really weren't worth the trouble. For example, when we chatted via online video, the reception was always unstable. There were probably some simple tech problems. My husband is a software engineer and his job is to solve tech problems for other people, but we couldn't even solve our parents' tech problems," the 33-year-old said.

"I can't think about it too much. Every time I do, it breaks my heart. I've wondered many times if things would be better if I had a sibling."

Su's concerns are shared by many members of China's "only-child generation", people born between the late 1970s and last year, many of whom live in different cities, provinces and even countries to their parents.

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