Reactions of Chinese “drifting elderly” aged 50 years and over when facing negative experiences in urban living

Yuhui Ruan1, Linyi Zhou2
1School of Politics and Public Administration and Institute of Public Health, Soochow University, and School of International and Public Affairs and Institute of Health Yangtze River Delta, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, People’s Republic of China
2School of International and Public Affairs, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, People’s Republic of China
Cite this article:  Ruan, Y., & Zhou, L. (2022). Reactions of Chinese “drifting elderly” aged 50 years and over when facing negative experiences in urban living. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 50(5), e11478.

Volume 50 Issue 5 | e11478 | Published: May 2022 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.11478

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Our aim was to analyze and interpret the behavioral reactions of Chinese laopiao (drifting elderly), that is, people aged 50 years and over who have migrated from rural to urban areas to rejoin adult sons/daughters, and who face negative experiences as a result of this move. We employed grounded theory and interviewed 31 migrants living in Shanghai. Most participants showed an obvious bias when facing negative experiences: they prioritized the future over the present, were accepting of present losses, and expressed risk aversion regarding future gains. Regarding the present, participants expressed a relatively weak desire for anticipatory gains and a positive attitude regarding risks. In contrast, regarding the future, they expressed a strong desire for anticipatory gains and a strong desire to delay related risks. Therefore, for the sake of future gains and to avoid greater risk, they continued to live as drifting elderly even when they were currently facing some seemingly negative social consequences.

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