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Though they have two sons, Mr. Vinh and Mrs. Nga surprised many people when they refused to live with any of them. Although both of their sons live and work in Hanoi, when they got married, they were asked to live separately.

“I used to be a daughter-in-law so I understand the inconveniences of living together. That's why my husband and I allowed my sons to live separately after they got married," Mrs. Nga said.

Three years ago, when the second son got married, he could not afford to buy a house of his own, and asked his parents to allow he and his wife to live with them for a while, but Mrs. Nga gave him only three months. If he could not buy a house, he would rent one.

Mrs. Nga explained: "The lifestyle of the two generations are completely different. When he was single, there was a gap between us. Now with the daughter-in-law, living together for a long time will create conflicts."

Mrs. Nga’s first son bought a house that is nearly ten kilometers away from his parents to make it easier for him to go to work, while the second son bought an apartment very near to his parents' house. Sometimes on weekends, they gather to eat and drink at their parent’s house.

Asked what they will do in the future when Nga and her husband get old and weak, Nga said: "We plan to sell this 4-storey house and use half of the money to buy an apartment. The other half is for the future. If we are too weak, we can hire someone to take care of us or go to a nursing home.”

More elderly people live separately



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According to a survey of the Institute of Population, Health and Development in 2020, with the participation of over 6,000 elderly people nationwide, about 19.4% of elderly people lived separately, with their wife or husband; 8.6% lived alone; and 61.3% lived with at least one biological child.

Another study on the role of the elderly in an aging Vietnamese society by Dr. Tran Thi Minh Thi, Director of the Institute for Family and Gender Studies, provided significant data, with the participation of over 300 elderlies in Ninh Binh province and 500 elderlies in Da Nang.

Specifically, the rate of elderly living alone increased from 3.47% in 1992-1993 to 20.5% in 2017. The rate of elderly living with their wife or husband increased from 9.48% in 1992-1993 to 50.4% in 2017.

The percentage of elderly living with their children decreased from 79.73% in 1992-1993 to 28.4% in 2017.

This study affirms that the tradition of the elderly living with their children and grandchildren in multi-generational families remains but there have been changes. Specifically, care for the elderly is gradually shifting from direct care to indirect care, from material care to emotional and spiritual care.

The rate of elderly living with their children and grandchildren is decreasing, while the rate of people living alone or living with their husband or wife is gradually increasing.

The study by Dr. Tran Thi Minh Thi highlighted a number of reasons for the change in care and accommodation arrangements of the elderly in Vietnam.

“The first is because migration of young people tends to increase, especially rural-urban migration, so the number of elderlies in communities tends to increase. Secondly, the participation in the labor market of young and middle-aged people in Vietnam is quite high, plus there is pressure of work and children, so it is difficult for them to have time to take care of their parents. The third is the participation in the labor market of the group that holds the main role in caring for the family – women - is quite high. Fourthly, the fertility rate is decreasing compared to previous decades, so the number of people taking care of the elderly is decreasing,” said Dr. Thi.

Dr. Le Ngoc Van (senior advisor of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences), and author of several books on Vietnamese family culture, said that, compared with the traditional family in the past, more elderly people do not want to live with their children and grandchildren, and conversely, some married adults want to live separately from their parents and grandparents.

“First of all, it reflects parents' respect for their children's privacy and freedom, and does not interfere deeply with their children's decision-making and autonomy in life. On the other hand, elderly people who are healthy, have income, and are not economically dependent on their children also have a need to live separately to be more comfortable,” he said.

Dr. Le Ngoc Van also cites data from the National Survey on the Elderly (2020) to show that, among elderly people living alone, up to 56.7% have their children living in the same commune or ward and 43.3% have their children not living in the same commune or ward.

Thus, the fact that children live close or far away is not the reason the elderly live separately. The main reason is that the elderly people want to be free in choosing and arranging their own accommodation.

According to a national survey of the Institute for Population, Health and Development, the majority of elderly people in Vietnam – more than 60% - still live with their children and grandchildren in extended families (3 generations or more), especially elderly living in rural areas, due to a lack of pension or social allowance.

However, a survey of the Institute of Sociology, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences in 2020 on the criteria of happy families in Ho Chi Minh City provides interesting data.

Specifically, only 54.5% of the elderly were satisfied with living in an extended family. Thus, one in 2.2 elderly is unhappy when living with children and grandchildren in an extended family.

“In today's Vietnamese family, the elderly people have more choices in arranging accommodation. These choices depend on the circumstances and preferences of the groups as well as the different stages in the life of the elderly. The model that brings a higher level of satisfaction and happiness to both the elderly and their descendants is the appropriate model,” Dr. Le Ngoc Van said.

He further noted: “The diversity of living patterns of the elderly does not change the good values of the traditional Vietnamese family of parents' love for their children and children's filial piety towards their parents and grandparents."

Nguyen Thao

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