Tag Archives: elders

Senior residents living in hostiles cities?

An old man practising calligraphy in Haikou, Goulard SébastienIn October 2013, a Hong Kong student, Qin Nan, defended a thesis entitled “Fear of crime experienced by older Chinese in urban China”1.

China has changed radically over the past 20 years, and some elderly Chinese may now feel lost in the new Chinese cities. These changes are both material and social. Many cities and neighbourhoods have been redeveloped. Senior residents may not recognise the city where they spent their entire lives. Chinese society has also evolved. People in their sixties or older have seen the end of a collective system and the adoption of individualistic values. The iron rice bowl has been broken. The eldest of these experienced the Cultural Revolution. They have suffered from hunger and other privations, and are now surrounded by commercial advertisements and live in cities where restaurants are everywhere2.

Chinese seniors also tend to live alone: their opportunities for social interaction are dwindling. Because of urban redevelopment, relocation and the end of danwei, many have lost contact with their former neighbours. Family ties, although still quite strong, are weakening/being undermined. Younger generations may have to move to other provinces for job opportunities.

Because of this evolution, seniors have lost some of their bearings. And so, they may feel vulnerable in this modern urban environment.

As noted by the thesis’ author, several studies conducted in Western countries show that seniors are more likely to feel threatened in an urban environment than younger people.

Qin Nan’s thesis explores the way this phenomenon occurs in China, based on the case of communities in Kunming.

According to her results, Chinese seniors’ fear of crime depends on several factors. Some (for example, female gender) also apply to Western countries, but others are unique to China. Thus, the author argues that perceived fear of crime is weaker in the case of seniors who adhere to Chinese traditional values of “harmony”.

As noted by the author, the Chinese population is getting older, and issues related to this ageing population will undoubtedly become apparent. In order to reduce the anxiety of senior residents, Qin Nan formulates several recommendations to China’s government. Firstly, assistance to seniors must be reinforced and social welfare policies need to be harmonised among Chinese provinces. The author points out the role of media and rumours in inflaming fear of crime and advises authorities to better communicate on crime incidence.

Another point regards education. According to the author, China’s “culture of harmony” needs to be promoted to the population in order to prevent fear of crime, and more specifically designed-for-seniors campaigns should be launched.

This thesis shows us how important it is to preserve certain cultural values that empower the weakest categories of the population.


  1. Qin, Nan (2013). Fear of crime experiences by older Chinese in urban China. Ph.D. thesis, University of Hong Kong. Retrieved 24 February, 2014, from http://hub.hku.hk/bitstream/10722/193150/1/FullText.pdf?accept=1 []
  2. see Lu Wenfu (陆文夫)’s excellent novel “The gourmet (mei shi jia, 美食家)” []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Rooftop gardening: better environment and much more

From Dublin1 to Montréal, many cities around the world promote the development of urban rooftop farming. Some of these urban experiments are also conducted in China. Many of these urban farms are actually operated by specialised companies, which ensure that they are quite efficient. In our opinion, it would make sense if local residents were involved in these initiatives.

In a country like China, which is undergoing a massive and rapid urbanisation, a large part of the urban population actually comes from the countryside. Including rural migrants in this kind of project can create societal benefits in the city. There have been several studies focusing on the positive effects of these green rooftops on environment, but rooftop farms may also bring social advantages to urban communities. As noted by my colleague Ai Chi-Han in a previous post, community gardens strengthen relations among residents. Urban rooftop farms can play a similar function and an also improve intergenerational relationships. By gardening on rooftop farms, elders who spent a large part of their life in the countryside could share time and experience with youngsters, who are more and more interested in healthy products. This experience transfer could also continue at lower levels, in the kitchen, for instance, where the old generation will pass on their recipes to the younger generation with the vegetables they have produced together.

This positive effect of urban rooftop farms may seem anecdotic at first sight. Yet, in an urbanising China where traditional social reference points are being challenged, urban authorities should encourage these initiatives that smooth relations between generations and help bring rural elders respect.

  1. Alison Healy (July 17, 2013), Dublin rooftop Urban Farm showcases a growing movement ,The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/dublin-rooftop-urban-farm-showcases-a-growing-movement-1.1465783, accessed October 23, 2013 []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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