Kong WEI

Document Type

Paper Series

Publication Date



18 (June 2010)


China has the largest elderly population in the world. At present, the older population aged 60 and above is close to 145 million while US had about 46 million people aged 60 or older (U.S. Census Bureau 2001). The older population in China made up about 10.2 percent of the total, with an annual growth of 3%. It is projected that by the middle of this century the figure will reach 400 million. Along with this increase, the number of elderly in empty nests is projected to soar. Among these empty nesters, many are weak and disadvantaged, insecure, unable to provide self-care or are emotionally drained. The ageing phenomenon in general and elderly in empty nests in particular has given rise to social problems that need urgent attention. The crucial question is therefore centered on the well-being of this group of elderly empty nesters. In recent years, both the local and central governments have taken active measures to give protection to this vulnerable group of elderly. The Chinese government has built homes for the aged and set up departments and welfare institutions for the elderly, aimed at improving the well-being of the older people. At the end of 2003, China‟s has established 51,000 welfare institutions for the aged with 1,042 thousand beds accommodating 817 thousand old residents who have no next of kin to care for them.

This article focuses mainly on the current living conditions of Chinese elderly in empty nests, explains the background that led to the emergence of empty nest syndrome, and suggestions for possible protection measures. First, the common characteristics of elderly in empty nests are discussed. These characteristics include loneliness and feelings of insecurity. In the second part of the article, the author analyses the reasons behind the rise of empty nest families in China. Lastly, the author puts forward suggestions and recommendations for empty nest families which are based on the concept of active ageing.

Paper Series No.

APIAS Monograph Paper Series No.18 (June 2010)

Recommended Citation

Wei, K. (2010).The elderly in empty nests: China’s challenge (APIAS Monograph Paper Series No.18). Retrieved from Lingnan University website:



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