As immigration flooded the sea shores of America the eastern European jew had a hard time adapting to the luxuries of the American way. Being able to have abundance for the eastern jews became a complex transforming form poor immmigrants to having the freedom to obtain wealth. The change in the concept of poverty would begin to alter the jewish way after they settle in America. Late in the 19th century American workers spent much less time then Europeans in food. The majority of their wages were for luxuries, having the jew sit back watching and learning. AFP/Getty Images
A woman surnamed Chu (left), 77, attends the hearing of a case against her daughter and husband in Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu province, on July 1. Chu's daughter has been ordered to visit her at least once every two months, in the first case under a new law to protect the elderly.
The sound of Buddhist chants wafts through an annex of the Songtang Hospice, the first private facility of its kind in Beijing. A group of lay Buddhists is trying to ease the passage of a recently departed soul of a patient.
When I first visited this place nearly two decades ago, the average patient stayed just 18 days. Now, it caters to people who are not terminally ill, and the average stay is about five years.
China is home to the world's largest aging population, and its attitudes and treatment of the elderly are changing. In the past, there was little mention in China of the rights of the elderly. Instead, ancestor worship and Confucian respect for the elderly were the norm.
But since this summer, Chinese law requires adult offspring to visit their elderly parents and look after their emotional needs. A number of cases of parents suing their deadbeat kids for emotional support have gotten heavy play in the Chinese media.
Law Meets Reality
Upstairs at the hospice, Huang Xuebing is visiting his mother, who has now been here for around five years and whose health is declining. Huang visits her here every day, but he still blames himself for not taking better care of her.
"In China, when you take care of a parent, you take care of him or her in your home, and you take care of them until they die," Huang says. "We call this filial piety. If you put a parent in an old age home, many people consider this unfilial. But we have no choice."
Huang says he tried to take care of his mother at home, but the caregivers he hired all quit. Huang's family comes from northeast China, and his mother's medical insurance will only pay for her treatment in her home province. So Huang uses all of his mother's pension, plus contributions from his siblings, to pay for his mother's stay at the hospice.
Huang admits he's struggling to reconcile his obligations to his mother versus those to society.
"I come here every day, but I have to take time out from work for it," he says. "When I come here to sit by her bedside and look after her every day that means that I haven't contributed to society in any other way, right?"
The challenge of caring for China's elderly is evident in the demographics. As of last year, China had about eight working-age people for every senior citizen. By midcentury, there will be only two people supporting each senior. This is because people are living longer, and they're having fewer children, in part because of China's one-child policy.
In another room of the hospice, I met a cheerful-looking 94-year-old retired teacher named Lian Yicheng. She says her daughter visits her just twice a month, and that's just fine by her.
"If there's nothing wrong, I don't ask her to come here," she says. "It's a three-hour round trip for her, so a visit takes up half her day. I tell her I'm fine, I'm alive and kicking, what's there to come over and see?"
She was separated from her children first during World War II. When the Japanese army invaded her home town of Wuhan, she fled to the wartime capital of Chongqing, then known as