by Xinhua writers Zhou Yan and Pan Qiang
NANNING, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Yang Xinrong, 93, struggles to eke out a living by selling handicrafts in the streets of Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province.
Two old tricycles are the temporary lodging of Yang and her ailing son Zhang Zhibao, 54.
Zhang left his home in rural Xincai County in the early 1990s, joining the mass exodus to work in the city. Over the years, his wife divorced him and he was bedridden with rickets.
Yang, having spent 20 years in widowhood, did not hesitate when her son asked her whether she was willing to join him in the city. She moved to Zhengzhou in February, fearing she might die in solitude if she stayed at home.
They carry all their belongings in the tricycles: a bedroll, some clothing, an ethanol-fueled stove to cook their meals, and packs of their wares: cheap toys made of plastic beads and straws they buy from wholesale markets and sell at slightly higher prices.
Though city life is tough for them, going home to the country is out of the question.
"Neither of us can work in the fields," said Zhang, whose backache makes it difficult even to sit up. "Here in the city, we can at least earn our meals." They made an average of 100 yuan (16.35 U.S. dollars) a day.
A few blocks from their lodging, 88-year-old Sun Yulan sells balloons from her wheelchair. She was determined to earn a living for herself and her 64-year-old son Yang Chuanshun, who has suffered mysterious pains for more than a decade. She makes about 50 yuan a day, though many sympathetic buyers pay twice or three times the normal price. She is happy with her city life. "Everything's convenient. Even if you don't want to cook, you can always buy a bun for a meal."
As China's first-ever Senior's Day is approaching, the plight of Yang and Sun reflects a wider and increasingly urgent problem in China: who is responsible for the care of the elderly?
The Senior's Day falls on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month, or the Double-Ninth Festival, which is Oct. 13 this year.
The 2,000-year-old Double-Ninth Festival is an auspicious time for the elderly as the pronunciation of "nine" in Chinese is the same as the word for eternity.
The Chinese traditionally lived in big families to provide better care for the elderly. Today, many families are struggling with clashes between traditional values and modern lifestyles.
While elders in the countryside are often left to take care of themselves as young people move to cities for work, urbanites who were brought up as the only child at home, also struggle to spend time with their parents and in-laws when they are tied up in their work.