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SLU researcher: China's one-baby policy will harm aging population

By Julie Bierach, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – After spending a year in China, a local researcher says the country's 1979 one-child policy could backfire on the country's aging population.

Dr. Joe Flaherty researches geriatrics at St. Louis University and visited hospitals and nursing homes in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu.

He says before 1979 there was no policy limiting population growth so there is currently no shortage of caregivers.

But within the next 25 to 30 years there could be.

"For two reasons, one is that elderly Chinese are living longer," he said, in an interview. "But also because of the one-child policy where there's fewer children being born and if older people are still living longer than that creates the imbalance."

Flaherty says if the burden of care shifts from family to facilities, the country could be unprepared. He says Beijing alone would have to construct 48 new nursing homes.

"Older people in their 50's and 60's don't need care from their children," Flaherty adds. "But when that group of 50, 60 year olds become their 80's, they will need more assistance.

"And that's when this current generation of people in their 20s will have to make big decisions."

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