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WorldTaiwanese 'graffiti village' eases elderly loneliness

08:25  18 july  2019
08:25  18 july  2019 Source:   msn.com

And Then There Was One: Three People Lived in This Village Until Two Were Murdered.

And Then There Was One: Three People Lived in This Village Until Two Were Murdered. Thirty years ago, the village of Dobrusa had about 200 residents. At the start of this year, it had just three. Then two were murdered. And now there is just one: Grisa Muntean, a short, mustachioed farmer often found in a flat-cap, a checked shirt and a ripped pair of blue trousers held up by a drawstring. For company, Mr. Muntean has his two cats, five dogs, nine turkeys, 15 geese, 42 chickens, about 50 pigeons, 120 ducks and several thousand bees. The other humans have either died, left for larger towns and cities in Moldova, or emigrated to Russia or other parts of Europe. “The loneliness kills you,” Mr. Muntean, 65, said on a recent afternoon.

Loneliness in the elderly population is a growing health concern among families and physicians. The result is more lonely senior citizens. Many people experience loneliness as a result of living alone, lack of close family relationships, and age related losses.

Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other beings

Taiwanese 'graffiti village' eases elderly loneliness© Sam YEH Nestled in the mist-covered foothills of Taiwan's central mountain range, Ruan Chiao village is virtually devoid of young people, but artist Wu Tsun-hsien is coaxing the Instagram generation back by transforming local homes into a canvas of colour

Nestled in the mist-covered foothills of Taiwan's central mountain range, Ruan Chiao village is virtually devoid of young people, but artist Wu Tsun-hsien is coaxing the Instagram generation back by transforming local homes into a canvas of colour.

Dipping his brush into a tin of beige emulsion, he carefully applies new layers of paint to his latest production -- a vibrant rural scene depicting farmers in traditional weave hats tending to a flock of animals.

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The circle shrinks. As the years pass, older people attend too many funerals. Friendships that sustained them for decades lapse when companions and confidants retire or move away or grow ill. These days Sylvia Frank, who moved into an independent living residence in Lower Manhattan in 2014

This video is about loneliness in the elderly , a serious issue which is becoming more and more prominent in today's society.

Behind him an elderly villager with a walking stick shuffles his way down the main street, which is plastered with Wu's colourful paintings.

"This village is full of old people," the 55-year-old laments, explaining how the vast majority of youngsters -- including his own children -- have moved to the city, leaving elderly residents listless and lonely.

But paintings have started to bring young visitors -- always keen for a selfie in a photo-friendly location -- back.

"These drawings attracted many tourists to come visit. The old people who were left here are no longer so bored. This was my biggest gain," he beams.

Wu is not alone in this adopting this strategy.

There are now some half a dozen so-called "graffiti villages" in Taiwan that have been festooned with artwork in a bid to inject some life into rural places that have been emptied of its young.

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Easing Old People's Loneliness Can Help Keep Them Healthy. Sometimes, our elders say, it's easier to stay in the house." Across the nation, geriatricians and other health and social service providers are growing increasingly worried about loneliness among seniors like Girardi.

Loneliness , like every emotion, is deeply personal and is suffered through and dealt with in different ways by all who experience it. Giving elderly people the opportunity to not just hold the hens, but take responsibility for feeding and cleaning them has led to reductions in loneliness and the need for

Taiwanese 'graffiti village' eases elderly loneliness© Sam YEH There are now some half a dozen so-called "graffiti villages" in Taiwan that have been festooned with artwork in a bid to inject some life into rural places that have been emptied of its young

- Empty villages -

Like many industrialised places, Taiwan's remarkable economic transformation over the past few decades has upended rural communities and unleashed huge demographic changes.

"It's perhaps a more recent phenomenon than it would have been in some other places," explains Shelley Rigger, an expert on Taiwan at Davidson College in North Carolina, who said much of Taiwan's industrial manufacturing stayed in the villages.

"People sewed Barbie doll clothing in their houses and then carried it down to a packaging plant in the middle of a village," she tells AFP, as an example.

Ruan Chiao village, for example, used to churn out paper temple offerings.

But once much of the manufacturing shifted to mainland China in the late 1990s and Taiwan moved up the value chain, many of those jobs left.

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We live in an age where we can communicate with friends and family members across the country and around the globe with a few clicks of a mouse or taps on a smart phone screen. However, despite advances in communications technology and the increasing connectedness it brings

"That's when you see rural areas kind of emptying out," Rigger adds.

Taiwan's 23 million population is also rapidly ageing. The birth rate has plummeted -- only 180,000 children were born last year, an eight-year low.

The Wu family have experienced this flight first hand.

The ancestral home is occupied by his wife's father, 81, and mother, 72, who still work a few plots of land in the hills above the village growing organic vegetables. But Wu's own children both went to university and have left, one to Australia, the other to a nearby city.

Wu's wife Fan Ai-hsiu explains their bid to draw Instagram-happy crowds of youngsters was less about economics and more about giving her parents something to look forward to.

"They want to have conversations with people, that's what they miss, it's not about money," Fan says.

But it was not initially an easy task to persuade fellow villagers to use their houses as a canvas.

"People here are fairly conservative," she recalls, adding: "But once the first few paintings went up, they could see it brought people in."

- Political themes -

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The mission of the Village to Village Network is to enable communities to establish, and effectively manage, aging in community organizations initiated and inspired by their members.

Loneliness might be described as negative feelings or sadness brought on by a lack of communication, companionship or relationships with other people. Loneliness can affect anyone of any age, but older people are particularly vulnerable to feeling lonely . As people grow older they are more likely to lose

Most of Wu's paintings in the village stick to rural pastiches or traditional symbols of good fortune.

It is the family home where he really gets to express himself -- and which has quickly drawn a mass following on social media.

Perched on a slope overlooking the village, the whole house is covered in images, many of which detail Wu's politics.

He's an avid believer that not enough is being done to tackle climate change, so some of the scenes show apocalyptic scenes of environmental devastation.

Others are commentaries on social issues like gay marriage -- which he opposes -- or how the elderly are treated in an increasingly consumerist society.

"This mural depicts the present Taiwanese corrupt society," Wu remarks as he walks along a huge painted wall featuring hundreds of images.

"This one is society's mayhem due to mobile phones, computers and television... and this one is our cultural loss where many of our Hakka young generations don't know the culture," he adds.

The Hakka are linguistically distinct group of people who trace their origins back to southern China. They have lived in Taiwan for some four centuries and make up 15-20 percent of the population.

Evelyn Sun puts on art and food events in Taipei and found out about Wu's paintings via social media.

She visited with friends who all soon found themselves sitting around a table with the Wu family, eating traditional Hakka vegetable dishes and tucking into eggs boiled in a secret recipe of local herbs.

The 25-year-old enthuses: "Taiwan has many 'graffiti villages' that are beautiful scenic spots where people will just leave after taking pictures."

"But I realized when I came here that every mural here is depicting a social problem faced by society."

She hopes other young Taiwanese will explore the nation's rural villages more often.

She explains: "These people are our culture, they are our history, we have to get to know them."

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