“Waltzing into Old Age: Embracing Aging with Dance, Taichi and Peers in Urban China”
With a cultural tradition in Confucianism, the concept of filial piety has long shaped the family intergenerational relations in China. Living arrangements with multiple-generations living under one roof were held as the cultural ideal, and parents and grandparents spent their senior years at home receiving care and support from their adult children. Because families were so tightly connected, one’s social interaction mainly came from within one’s own family unit. In contemporary China, however, this traditional family structure and way of life has been undergoing rapid changes due to various new social and demographic factors: the rising number of children who leave their hometowns to find work elsewhere, the trend toward separate living arrangements between the generations, and the shift from Confucianism to more Western values.
In my research, I specifically want to examine the changing experiences of elders in urban centers. In recent years as more and more elderly live in empty-nest households, they have begun to form their own social networks, in public spaces such as parks or community centers, exercising, playing games, and chatting with each other. Because they live independently, instead of relying on family members, they turn to each other for advice, help, and companionship. These activities help them to stay active and healthy, as well as promote a feeling of community and usefulness that they might otherwise be lacking in a lonely independent living situation.