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Aging in a new era

By Wu Chaolan (People's Daily Online)    09:59, December 25, 2020

Filming, editing, and publishing videos are inalienable parts of 65-year-old Lin Wei's daily life. The retiree has become an online celebrity now, with a Tiktok account having a total of six million likes.

Lin Wei is embracing retirement with modeling, performing, and now video production. "I cherish my retirement time," she said, "and I am making the best use of my monthly pension to improve my life."

Lin Wei (the seond from the left) and her friends model at Wangfujing Street, Beijing. (Photo/Xinhua)

A video of Lin Wei modeling in a Qipao with her three friends went viral, with many young audiences appreciating their positive attitude towards aging. "I enjoy the process of aging naturally and gracefully," said Lin.

With the largest population in the world, China is witnessing a growing number of "stylish seniors" who are experiencing innovative ways of living. 

Zhang Liangui, 68, practices Taiji Sword at the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing. (Xinhua/Meng Tao)

Living a colorful life

Tourism sites in China are always jam-packed with silver-haired people. In 2019, the elderly tourism consumption figure reached more than 500 billion yuan (76.6 billion U.S. dollars), according to data published by China's National Committee on Aging and iiMedia Group, a third-party data mining and analysis organization.

"Seniors have become one of the major customer segments, especially in the off-peak season," said an owner of a travel agency in southeastern China's Fujian province, "With spare money, flexible time and support from their children, no wonder the elderly are passionate about traveling." A survey conducted by Ctrip, a travel service provider, in 2019, showed that 65% of senior interviewees travel more than three times a year.

"I didn't have time to travel around when I was at work. Now, I have time and money, so I can go whenever and wherever I want," said Lao Xu, a retiree in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian Province. So far, he has visited Tibet, Xinjiang, Hubei, and several other popular tourist provinces and regions after retirement. "Age is just a number for me," he said.

Heading back to universities is another popular choice among the older population. Senior citizen universities (SCUs) in China offer courses in pursuits like Chinese calligraphy, dancing, literature, as well as video editing. The demand for SCUs is high, with classes filling up within a few minutes. By 2018, China established 62,000 universities and schools for the elderly, with 13 million offline and online students, according to data from the China Association of Universities for the Elderly. 

Villager Liang Anhe (R), 70, teaches his wife Liang Yingmi, 67, to write Chinese characters during a mandarin training program in Wuying Village. (Xinhua/Li Xin)

"The SCU fulfilled my dream of attending college where I can not only learn new stuff but also stay connected with my classmates and community," said 70-year-old Zhang Wei, who has registered for three courses. 

Li Julong, 69, makes an instructional video about playing the flute for senior residents living in the neighborhood of Fusi Community in Beijing. (Xinhua/Peng Ziyang)

From square dancers and singers, to club goers and community volunteers, "stylish seniors" in cities are exploring different identities in their twilight years. "With continuously improving medical and social security services in the country, we need to redefine the word 'old'. Today's seniors are more youthful than 30 years ago due to the better physical and cognitive heath conditions," said Peng Xizhe, a demography professor at the Center for Population and Development Policy Studies, Fudan University.

Gu Dawo, an endurance sports enthusiast, runs in a forest park in Yinchuan, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Jia Haocheng)

The elderly in rural regions are also witnessing significant changes in their lives. The local government is ramping up efforts to build elder care centers in rural regions, equipped with dining halls, reading rooms, clinics, entertainment rooms, and outdoor workout facilities. For Xue Jin, a 60-year-old farmer, the senior center means both care and community for her, where she can check her blood pressure every day and participate in activities organized by volunteers, such as making handicrafts and square dancing. "The center is like my second home," said Xue.

Seniors chat outside of a community elderly care center at the Suzhou Industrial Park in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province. (Xinhua/Ji Chunpeng)

Policies taking shape

"Unlike their previous generations, who lived a life revolving around their family, today's elderly are more independent and willing to pursue a higher quality of life," said Huang Wenzheng, a senior researcher at the Center for China and Globalization.

"They are beneficiaries of China's Reform and Opening-up policy," said Peng, "the nation and individuals have accumulated massive wealth since the Reform and Opening-up, which allows them to have appreciable savings after they retire." Peng also added that the elderly people in this generation adopted new ideas and lifestyles when they were young, so they are more willing to spend money and try new things as they get older.

A report released by the China National Committee on Aging shows that the elderly consumption market will hit 3.79 trillion yuan (567 billion US dollars) in 2020. The lucrative silver economy is thriving, with product targeting of their diversified needs cropping up, from the installation of elevators to AI-monitor devices, from toys for the elderly to senior dating apps.

"Favorable policies and the huge market have attracted more companies to put their eyes on the needs of the elderly, which were largely ignored before," said Du Peng, Director of the Institute of Gerontology at Renmin University of China. "This contributes to building a senior-friendly society as technology devices make seniors' life safer and more convenient and the cultural products satisfy their social and spiritual needs," he said. 


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(Web editor: Wu Chaolan, Liang Jun)

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