As the effects of industrialisation shifts most of the manufacturing work from Taiwan to China and Taiwan moves up the economic value chain, there are many rural villages in Taiwan which are empty due to the youngsters moving out into the cities. Since the villages are full of old people, the pace of life is slow and the elderly residents are listless and lonely.
Some of these rural villages have taken to cover their houses with graffiti and artwork to inject some life into these rural places and to attract young people back. The Instagram generation are drawn back to these rural villages to capture pictures of the artwork and pastiches. However, the artists are not so much motivated by the fame as they are in helping elderly residents have conversations with others.
One particular house has been very popular on social media. The artist has decided to cover his whole house with images that serve as commentaries on social issues in line with his political temperament. In one mural, he depicts the cultural loss of the younger generations due to the proliferate use of mobile phones, computers and television.
Read the full article on South China Morning Post: Taiwan’s ‘graffiti village’ attracts Instagram generation to counter elderly loneliness
Ironically, one of the social issues highlighted in the murals at the graffiti village is how the elderly are treated in an increasingly consumerist society. Arguably, when the Instagram generation are attracted to snap pictures of the beautiful graffiti, they are more interested in the murals than speaking to the elderly residents. Does it matter that the conversations with the elderly are merely a byproduct of the younger generations’ attraction to the paintings?
Consider another example of the case of Dutch university students living in nursing homes, where students are offered free rent in exchange of being neighbours to their elderly residents. These students alleviate the loneliness of the elderly, but also teach them new skills related to the Internet. Most students find this beneficial and there is data to suggest that there is a positive impact on the students as well.
Questions for further personal evaluation:
- What do you think is the value of connecting the young in our society with the old?
- Would you visit a graffiti village if you were travelling to Taiwan? Why or why not? Would you be keen to speak to the elderly residents?
- ‘temperament’: characteristic or habitual inclination
- ‘consumerist’: a preoccupation with and an inclination towards the purchase of consumer goods