Practicing a senior living
Implementation of China’s family planning policy fundamentally changed the traditional core family structure. The family size has become ever smaller, breaking the traditional family model in which three-generation or even four-generation cohabitate. The 4-2-1 family structure (4 grandparents, 2 parents, and 1 child) has become mainstream. This has caused an explosion of senior family and elderly living alone, which now represents a significant social issue in China.
The Chinese government has recognized and responded to the lonely elder problem by creating the so-called Senior Citizen University. The SCU serves as a welcome place in the community, for elder entertainment, study and gathering during the day. Nevertheless, the seniors are still living and dining alone most of the time; the pleasures of SCU are temporary. Though a positive step, the Senior University is not enough as a response to the lonely elder issue.
It is time to recognize the challenges that our elders face, through a multi-experience participatory exhibition that brings generations together. Senior Citizen University of Fengxian District, Shanghai, is both part of the solution, and not enough. The proposed exhibition is situated on the ground level of the SCU and targets a youth audience. Certain types of exhibitions, especially ones that include different forms of participation, are powerful tools to communicate larger issues to visitors. Exhibitions make visitors aware, they raise questions and ultimately, they can contribute to change our society.
This new experience will bring together young and old by using didactic, experiential, and participatory methods. To travel from different sections of the exhibition, visitors are guided by a senior volunteer. In the first outdoor didactic section, young visitors are accompanied by their senior volunteers. They will have the opportunity to read information and communicate with their elder guide about contemporary issues facing by senior citizens. Then, entering the second part of the exhibition, they will go through a psychological and physical experience which addresses some of the main challenges of being a senior. In the section, which requires direct participation. Visitors will learn traditional Chinese crafts from the seniors, take part in activities and communicate with the old. The pieces made during the intergenerational workshops will be displayed in the same gallery. Both the experiential and participatory parts of the exhibition will encourage interaction and communication between the young visitor and senior guide. In this way, the young generation may develop an in-depth emotional connection and reflect on the return of the lost tradition of families living together.