The vast majority of elderly Koreans do not want to live with their children as traditional family ties erode.
According to a survey released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare last week, the proportion of senior citizens who favor the traditional arrangement of moving in with their children dropped from 32.5 percent in 2008 to just 15.2 percent last year. The ministry has conducted the survey of about 10,000 elderly people every three years since 2008.
Most elderly people who live with their children do so for purely financial or other practical reasons, and their proportion dropped from 27.6 percent to 23.7 percent over the past decade.
When asked why, only 14.8 percent said it is natural to live with one's married children, while decade ago the figure stood at 43.4 percent. Others cited helping with housework or childcare (27.3 percent), financial difficulties (27.3 percent) and children's inability to support themselves (14.8 percent).
Some 44.5 percent of elderly singles or couples said they have no problem living by themselves, but 80 percent over 85 or on a low income have difficulties.
"A growing number of older people as well as their children wish to live separately as long as they are financially independent and healthy," said Jeong Kyung-hee at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.
Elderly people's financial dependency on their children is on the decline. Money from children accounted for 46.5 percent of their income in 2008, but the proportion decreased to 22 percent in 2017. Instead, old age pensions accounted for about 37 percent.
Some 30.9 percent of elderly people work, mostly to earn a living, followed by wanting to make pocket money or to stay active. Asked if they are satisfied with their housing, 58 percent said they want to keep living where they are even when they have difficulty moving around.
As the average life expectancy rises, many senior citizens said the pensionable age should be set higher, with 82 percent saying 70 is a better cutoff point. The number of elderly people who drive is also increasing, from 10.1 percent to 18.8 percent, though 11.1 percent of them admitted they see less well and their reactions are slower. The age at which they stopped driving rose from 57.3 to 62.1.
Asked about their leisure activities excluding watching TV, some 27.5 percent named going for walks and 16.6 percent sport. Illiteracy declined from 15.3 percent in 2008 to 6.6 percent last year.