RUGAO: Gu Bin leans over a desk as he fastidiously provides strokes to the Chinese character for “fortune”, earlier than signing off in a flourish along with his age – 104.
But the spry great-grandfather is 5 years youthful than the oldest member of the group in Rugao, an jap metropolis dwelling to greater than 500 centenarians and which celebrates its aged with delight, statues and subsidies.
Calligraphy is one of the many hobbies practised by Gu, who was already in his nineties when he taught himself to make use of the web.
“I write poetry, read books and newspapers, and watch the news every day,” says Gu, who was born in 1918, in the tumultuous early years of China’s republican period.
Decades of a one-child coverage has inbuilt a demographic problem for China, with a low start fee and the world’s largest inhabitants of aged to supply for, whereas the stress of city life is ripping up traditions of filial duty for aged mother and father.
By 2050, the authorities predicts retirees will represent a 3rd of China’s inhabitants and caring for them will value 1 / 4 of annual GDP.
This week’s census knowledge confirmed China’s inhabitants over 60 had reached greater than 264 million – a 5 per cent improve over the final decade – making Rugao a testing floor for the nation’s future.
It is dubbed China’s “longevity city” for its spectacular quantity of tremendous seniors, with 78,000 individuals aged between 80 and 99 amongst its 1.4 million residents – and one other 525 over 100.
Temples and parks are replete with the aged praying with longs sticks of incense, dancing or practising the sluggish strokes of tai chi.
Older residents collect to talk on cobbled riverside streets, or sit in public squares to sing songs in a metropolis which celebrates its pensioners with a 50-metre tall statue of Shouxing, the God of Longevity.
“Our ethos here is to respect the elderly,” Rugao Longevity Research Centre director She Minggao – who is sort of 70 years outdated himself – instructed AFP.
“We believe that to have an elderly person in a family is like having a treasure.”
That delight displays onto the residents. Gu exhibits off a heavy medal for metropolis centenarians who full a hundred-metre stroll, as nicely a certificates dated 1951 for combating in China’s People’s Liberation Army.
Bundled up in padded trousers, coat and hat, the former accountant largely stays dwelling after a fall a couple of years in the past.
But he maintains his sharp wit and retains linked with the outdoors world by the web.
“Biden is just too old to be president,” Gu quips, pointing to a information merchandise about the 78-year-old US chief.
“He’s not as old as me, but he’s also not as smart.”
Rugao – round 200km from Shanghai – is surrounded by fields of inexperienced and yellow crops and adorned with stately canals. Locals consider the pure surroundings has an element to play of their longevity.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences speculated in a single report that top ranges of the mineral selenium in the metropolis’s soil might be an element extending the life expectancy of its residents.
But after over a century dwelling by China’s tumultuous historical past, others have a extra simple rationalization.
“I still work,” says great-grandfather Yu Fuxi, aged 103, who zips round city on his motor scooter.
“I sweep the floor every day and like everything clean and tidy. I go to the market on my scooter and buy what I want,” he provides, from a room with a neatly rolled up bedspread and film of Chinese president Xi Jinping on the wall.
Yu often makes meals for his grandchildren, darting round the kitchen in white cooking overalls.
Across city, Qian Zuhua – two years his junior – is equally motivated serving to at his son’s screw manufacturing manufacturing unit, matching steel nuts and bolts along with his nonetheless nimble fingers.
“I’m 101 and my health is good,” he instructed AFP from an residence shared along with his son, grandson and great-granddaughter.
“I am happy when I think about it.”
The aged in China are historically cared for at dwelling by youthful relations.
But the one-child coverage created a fast-ageing inhabitants and a shrinking workforce, placing stress on working youngsters to care for two units of mother and father.
Urbanisation, lengthy working hours and excessive property costs – plus altering mindsets amongst many youthful, cosmopolitan Chinese – makes pairing custom with modernity a problem.
Rugao authorities launched subsidised or free door-to-door companies – well being checks, hair cuts and therapeutic massage – for the aged.
Residents additionally get a pension top-up that will increase with age, and a subsidy in the direction of aged care prices.
But in different elements of China, aged care is much less expansive.
“Government-run institutions are in high demand and typically have long waiting lists,” stated Kyle Freeman, associate at advisor Dezan Shira and Associates.
In distinction, he says, costly non-public amenities are largely under capability.
With many households now made up of one youngster, two grownup mother and father, and 4 aged grandparents, Chinese youngsters are being squeezed as they attempt to care for relations.
“My son is working in Beijing, so we are the empty nesters,” stated Wang Yingmei, 85, from the tidy room she shares together with her husband in a single Rugao aged care dwelling.
“It’s actually more cosy than our home, because there is nobody else at home but us.”
PRICE OF GETTING OLD
Residents pay round 4,000 yuan (US$600) a month for their room at the centre.
That is roughly the common month-to-month revenue of a metropolis resident in China – however greater than double the revenue of a rural employee.
Freeman says aged care might overtake actual property as China’s largest trade inside the subsequent fifteen years, with well being officers projecting whole aged care prices might go from about seven p.c of GDP to greater than 1 / 4 by 2050.
Chinese coverage goals for 90 per cent of the nation’s aged to be cared for at dwelling, however to realize that authorities might want to stir a change in mindset.
“The implication is a return to filial piety in China which took a break, particularly in cities, over the last 30 years,” stated Sofya Bakhta, a China market analyst at Daxue Consulting.
Gu Bin is kind of content material at dwelling in his leafy residence the place he is aware of his neighbours, lives along with his daughter and son-in-law, and may indulge his flurry of newly-found hobbies.
“In the past China was poor, we owned nothing. Now I have a place to live, food to eat and my clothes are warm.
“Life is sweet.”