It is well known that China’s population is aging, more rapidly than almost any country in recent history. In 2018, 1.67 billion or 11.9% of the population was aged 65 or older (China Daily, 2019). The effect of an aging population trend is not usually represented positively—“elderly as a burden”—whether in China or elsewhere. However, our action research project of post-disaster community rebuilding in Ya’an in Sichuan Province, China challenges this mainstream discourse of elderly people. In the process, we discovered the power of the elderly who did not passively accept external assistance following the earthquake, but actively participated in rebuilding their community. They were valuable human/cultural assets and able to make a great contribution to community development. This article provides an account of interdisciplinary action research in which social workers collaborated with elderly villagers to promote sustainable community development by integrating people’s social, cultural, and economic skills into long-term reconstruction following a major disaster. Most importantly, it emphasizes the contribution of older people and challenges the dominant discourse relating to older people.
- Post-disaster community reconstruction
- Participatory Design