Zhang Zefang, a 94-year old woman who sued her own children for not taking care of her, left, and Kuang Shiying, Zhang's daughter-in-law, speak to each other at her house in Fusheng Village, east of Chongqing City, China on March 19, 2013. Zhang has accused Kuang of abusing her and locking her in a lightless room for hours on end - accusations Kuang denies.
(Photo: Eugene Hoshiko, AP)
FUSHENG, China (AP) -- As the daughter-in-law rolls open the rusted doors to her garage, light spills onto a small figure on a straw mattress. A curious face peers out.
It's the face of Kuang Shiying's 94-year-old mother-in-law - better known as the little old lady who sued her own children for not taking care of her.
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The drama playing out inside this house reflects a wider and increasingly urgent dilemma. The world's population is aging fast, due to longer life spans and lower birth rates, and there will soon be more old people than young for the first time in history. This has left families and governments struggling to decide: Who is responsible for the care of the elderly?
A few countries, such as India, Singapore, France and Ukraine, now require adult children to financially support their parents. Twenty-nine U.S. states have similar laws, though they are rarely enforced because the government provides aid.
In China, where family loyalty is a cornerstone of society, more than 1,000 parents have sued their children for financial support over the last 15 years. But in December, the government went further, amending its elder care law to require that children also support their parents emotionally. Children who don't visit their parents can be sued - by mom and dad.