Jennifer Tsang

“Redefining Filial Piety: Changing Attitudes toward Institutional Care in China”

In the Chinese cultural tradition, the family has always played a central role in providing care for the elderly. However, since the last two decades, fee-based residential homes for the elderly have multiplied and grown very rapidly in China. The rise of institutional elderly care indicates that the family-based support system is inadequate to address the growing need of elderly care in China, as family size is shrinking and increasingly more parents are living in empty-nest households. For my part of this collaborative research, I will focus on the development of institutional care for the elderly and the changing attitudes toward this form of eldercare. This particular subject needs to be researched because institutional care is relatively new and is still viewed as controversial and “divergent” from the Chinese culture. However, even though institutional care is feared or even detested to some extent, increasingly, institutional care is also viewed as an alternative elderly care method. More interestingly, while some people still view placing parents in residential homes as unfilial, others are gradually beginning to see the act as a new form of filial piety. In my research, I will first examine different types of institutional care that operate in China: government-run, community-run, and private-run, and discuss why these different types exist and how they relate to each other. Then I will find out how and why institutional care is increasingly repackaged to fit modernizing needs as well as to accommodate the traditional value of filial piety. Finally, I will study how these factors relate to the changing attitudes toward institutional care.