The Old And The Restless (Chinese Style)

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Since I came to China I noticed a lot of old people everywhere, and they are always in groups, playing, dancing, walking and most importantly, smiling 🙂

I thought to myself, this country is a paradise for old people: they don’t work, they don’t seem worried, and they are enjoying life, as they should be. So I decided to dig a little dipper and find out what is the secret of their happiness.

Just happy :)

Just happy 🙂

1. Living under one roof with all their family.

After searching online I found out that the retirement ages in China are starting from 50-55 years old for women and 60 for men, which is considered quite young compare to other countries. After they retire, the ones who worked at a private company get an average pension that represents only 40% to 45% of their salaries, (estimates Hu Yuwei, China representative of Spanish bank BBVA (BBVA)). In most cases, it’s not even enough money to cover the monthly rent. So most of the families in China are all living together in the same house, even in a small apartment. In China if a persons sends his parents to a nursing home, others will look down at him. The elderly people prefer and expect their child to take care of them within his/her house.

There is even a 94 year-old grandmother that sued her own children for not taking care of her.

2. The One Child Policy

The second thing I believe has a direct connection to their happiness is the “One Child Policy”. Because of the high number of people China, the “one child policy” as been enforced in 1979 and basically means that every couple is allowed to have only one child (the policy allows many exceptions, and over the years it become less strict).

The result of the policy was that every child has like 6 elderly family members: mother, father and 4 grandparents. In western countries usually one of the parents is going to work and one is taking care of the child. In China, in most cases both parents are going to work, while the grandparents are taking care of their grandchild.

It seems like the perfect solution but actually the needs to take care (financially) of their child and also of their parents. Well at least the grandparents enjoy their quality time with their grandchild and get sported by their child.

Grandmother taking care of her grandchild during the week

Grandmother taking care of her grandchild during the week

Grandfather taking his grandchild from the kindergarten

Grandfather taking his grandchild from the kindergarten

3. LEISURE TIME

The Retirees in China have a lot of leisure time so if you go on the streets or to the parks you will see them hanging around together in groups and enjoying themselves. I think there is nothing more charming than to see an old couple holding hands or a bunch of old guys playing games in the park like they’re 16 years old.

So what do they do in their free time? I asked a friend of mine if I can interview her grandmother and she agreed happily 🙂

I asked her to tell me her common daily life: (on a week day)

  • Waking up at 5:00 am and prepare breakfast
  • 6:00am eating breakfast with the family
  • 6:30am meeting at the public garden downstairs for exercise, Tai chi or folk dancing.
  • 7:00am Taking my grandchild to her primary school
  • 9:00am I work 3 times a week as a street supervisor, it is kind of an Inspector of the traffic, making sure there are no accidents. (They get paid just a little bit). On the other days I’m going for food shopping at the market.
The street supervisors, watching the roads, making sure there are no accidents to report.

The street supervisors, watching the roads, making sure there are no accidents to report.

  • 12:00pm eating lunch
  • 1:00pm taking a nap
  • 2:00pm depends on the weather, usually in a nice day I meet my friends at the park to sit by the lake, my husband will play with his friends Mahjong (Chinese Solitaire board game) or Chinese Chess.
  • 3:00pm picking up my grandchild from school
  • 4:00pm playing with my grandchild and helping her with homework
  • 5:00pm watching TV and preparing for dinner
  • 6:00pm eating dinner
  • 7:30pm square dancing or maybe just walking in the street
  • 8:30pm going to sleep
Doing exercise at the street and the park (Kungfu, Folk dancing, Badminton)

Doing exercise at the street and the park (Kungfu, Folk dancing, Badminton)

In the weekends we usually go to the big public park, temple of heaven or the summer palace to spend time with our friends. I think the social life for the elderly in Beijing is beautiful; they are almost all the time occupied and enjoy their life very much. Bringing a child to life has certainly paid off, as they will relay on him/her to take care of them when they are older.

A sign in the park that describe a section for the senior citizen

A sign in the park that describe a section for the senior citizen

Playing and relaxing at the park

Playing and relaxing at the park

Playing and relaxing at the park

Playing and relaxing at the park

SO HOW DOES IT AFFECT THE GRANDCHILD?

The problem with the fact that the grandparents are taking care of their grandchild is the lack of the child maturation. You can start by seeing a 20 years old girl acting like a 10 years old child with “Hello Kitty” clothing. I had many young employees over the years and I have to say that it was very hard to manage them, more than any employee that I had in Israel.

The good thing about the grandchild being raised by his/her grandparents is that they have a lot of respect for the old and their family always comes first. I don’t want to generalize but in my family when my grandparents need help my family will make sure they get all the assistance they need or a daily nurse. In China, in most of cases, the middle generation themselves will take care of the parents (first generation) and especially the third generation, grandchildren, will take care of their grandparents. I had a teacher that stopped working for 6 months to take care of her grandma that broke her hip. I think it also make the elderly very happy to know that there will always someone to take care of them no matter what.

So what happened after the grandchild leaves the “nest”?

After the grandchild is moving away to university or to work most of the elderly take a small dog as their pet and they treat it like their own child. Most of the dogs that I saw in Beijing are highly taken care of, you can see that especially in their lovely clothing, yes the dog’s clothing!

Meeting up at the neighborhood with their “dog child”

Meeting up at the neighborhood with their “dog child”

A woman with her beloved dog

A woman with her beloved dog

Nowadays the main concern is that People older than 60 make up 13% of the population. By 2050 that number will rise to 34%, estimates the World Bank so not only there won’t be enough working force but also there will be a lot of elderly with even less pension which the government won’t be able to support.

The one thing I learn from this is that it doesn’t really matter how much money you have, you just need to have the basic daily needs covered and as long as you have your family love and they take care of you that will be enough to make them HAPPY!

Well that just makes me happy too! 🙂

The “old” and the “new” at “ The Place” enjoying each other company

The “old” and the “new” at “ The Place” enjoying each other company



Meirav Markowitz

Meirav 梅花 Shacked - The Israeli girl beyond the Great FireWall (of China). Currently living and working in Beijing, China for the last 3 years, Meirav is involve in the local Chinese online & social media scenes as well as the conventional global platforms. Meirav loves a good 'night out' at a chic KTV (karaoke) club as well as getting lost in Beijing old town alleys (Hutongs) while posting her adventures on Instagram (@meimarko). She might just be the only blonde who commutes daily in the Beijing subway, along with 12 million other Chinese passengers.

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