Nearly half of all elderly people in China's cities live alone and have inadequate healthcare, state media said Wednesday, citing a recent survey.
An estimated 49.7 percent of city dwellers aged 60 or older lived in "empty nests," Xinhua news agency said, quoting a survey by the government-run China Elderly Work Committee Office.
In the past, care for the elderly was considered a key virtue but greater individualism in recent decades has led to the corrosion of traditional values, analysts say.
The survey found that the number of Chinese aged 60 and older in late 2006 was 149 million, or 11.3 percent of the population, imposing a growing welfare burden on China.
"As the country's population is aging, more old people are in need of long-term care," the report said, quoting Guo Haoming, an official with the Chinese Association for Life Care, a Beijing-based volunteer organisation.
Guo said the elderly needed daily care, mental support, emergency aid and hospice care but the development of related industries lagged behind, with the services available far from adequate.