Volunteers in Beijing teach elderly people how to use smartphones. Photo: Xinhua
An elderly woman living in Shanghai became a trending topic earning nearly 200 million views on Sina Weibo as of Tuesday after her rampant hoarding behavior caught the attention of netizens, many of whom called for more to be done to take care of China’s aging population, especially to care more about their loneliness issue.
The woman first came to the attention of media after her neighbor complained on social media about the numerous junk and knick knacks that were crowding the common area they shared, not only blocking their way out of the building but also posing safety concerns as many of the items were highly flammable.
A visit from local media soon revealed that the woman’s home was also chocked full of items of every kind, from abandoned e-scooter batteries and microwaves to empty bottles and cardboard boxes picked up from the street.
The old lady told media that she does not collect these items for money, as she has them from the four properties her family has to rent out in Shanghai. According to the woman, who has two sons that she is not close to, collecting these various items is just a hobby for her to pass the time while she lives alone.
The elderly woman’s story soon sparked hot discussion on Sina Weibo, with some netizens calling her behavior “the quirky hobby of the rich,” while others said they felt it pointed to a deeper issue of loneliness and insecurity.
“I hope someone can offer her psychiatric counseling, she clearly lacks company and feels lonely, so she tries to have things around her. She needs more love from her family,” said one netizen on Sina Weibo.
“Hoarding to an extreme level is a syndrome. It is obsessive-compulsive behavior often found in people who are alone. This type of mental issue was likely induced by feelings of depression, the extreme pursuit of perfection, and loneliness as well,” Wang Yiming, a mental counseling expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
“The misunderstanding of people, along with blame and complaints, could further deepen their sense of isolation,” he warned.
“My grandma does this too, I used to blame her, now I get it maybe she just get used to creating the junk wall to protect herself, it made me feel guilty,” said a netizen on Sina Weibo.
Netizens’ compassion toward the elderly woman also inspired some people to call for society to pay more attention to the plight of older generations and reach out to them.