With China's fast economic expansion driving many youngsters away from their hometowns to work in big cities, some Chinese are starting to recognize the physical and psychological toll that their migration has had on their parents.
With no children at home to take care of them, "empty nesters" have become increasingly vulnerable, according to netizens who expressed their worries online on Seniors' Day, a holiday that calls for spending time with one's parents.
Seniors' Day falls on Oct. 23 this year.
A "yellow bracelet" campaign initiated by the China Population Welfare Foundation to help wayward elderly people find their way home has been one of the most discussed topics online.
The foundation posted a message on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging site, asking netizens to help senior citizens who are spotted wearing yellow rubber bracelets donated by the foundation to make their way back home, as the bracelets indicate that the person in question has memory loss and may need help returning home.
The foundation said it would donate one bracelet for each time the post was forwarded. The post had been forwarded more than 50,000 times as of Tuesday evening.
"Every day we see messages about missing elderly people who cannot find their way home due to memory loss," the post said. "A single click can help an old man make his way home."
Many netizens said they were happy to forward the post, as many of them do not have time to take care of or even visit their parents.
"It's not easy to find a job today and I wouldn't dare take leave to visit my parents and grandparents," said Shanghai resident Pan Xian, adding that her grandmother has had difficulty remembering her face when she does manage to visit.
Pan said it is too expensive for her family to move in with her in Shanghai.
"The most regretful thing is that when you want to treat your parents better, they are already gone," wrote netizen "niu'ya'niununu."
Another post on Sina Weibo asking young people to reunite and have conversations with their parents during the holiday was also a popular topic on Tuesday.
The post encouraged young people to express their love toward their parents, as Chinese custom traditionally discourages vocal expressions of affection, even toward loved ones.
Experts said the online buzz surrounding the holiday reflects growing pressure that young people face in a time of rapid urbanization.
"It's now common for young Chinese to leave home and pursue their dreams in other cities, a deviation from the traditions that require children to stay with their aging parents and take care of them," said Sun Pengbiao, secretary-general of the Gerontological Society of Shanghai.
Sun said fast-paced urban life and fierce competition in the job market have placed great pressure on many Chinese, many of whom are only sons or daughters due to the effects of the one-child policy.
Fifty-four percent of respondents to a survey conducted by Daguu.com, a job-hunting website for migrant workers, stated that they visit their parents less than twice a year.
Most of the surveyed workers said they would not bring their parents to the cities where they work, citing high living costs as the main reason.
Zhang Youde, a sociologist at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, advised young people to teach their parents to surf the Internet in order to increase interaction between them.
"Online communication is an effective way for young people to provide care," said Zhang.