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February 8, 2020

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The migratory aged looking for a better life in China

Donning a traditional Chinese suit, Huo Jianjun swaggers on the catwalk and strikes a pose.

It’s a New Year gala performed by more than 300 senior citizens in the county of Anding in south China’s Hainan Province.

The show includes poetry reading, dancing, Peking Opera, modeling and gong performing. Among the performers, the oldest is 86 years old.

“Performing truly enriched our lives,” said Huo, 64, from north China’s Hebei Province. “Years ago, life was really boring and lonely here.”

Huo is among many senior people that have joined in the yearly migration to Hainan to escape a life largely restricted indoors due to the chilly weather in north China.

From 2000 to 2018, China saw its elderly population aged 60 and above nearly double from 126 million to 249 million, according to a 2019 report released by the Peking Union Medical College and Chinese Aging Well Association.

Demand has been rising among Chinese seniors to flock southward for a better quality of life during the biting winter.

The county of Anding has beautiful mountains, water, fresh air and warm temperatures, which has attracted almost 20,000 senior citizens.

But the seemingly relaxing lifestyle did not seem to bring much happiness at first. Many elderly people said there was “trouble in paradise” on the island resort, particularly those who are single, or those whose children are not with them.

“When I brought my parents and parents-in-law here, they could not understand the dialect here, and they couldn’t even find friends to play chess with,” said Fu Ziyun, founder of The Beautiful Sunset, a service center for senior citizens in the county.

“Loneliness was killing them!”

Fu said he could feel the sense of sadness in their eyes.

“I brought them here to get through the cold winter, only to have them go through another kind of coldness here,” Fu said.

In 2012, Fu launched The Beautiful Sunset with his colleague to help the migratory seniors find friends and offer assistance. The center set up a 24-7 hotline to help disabled and widowed elderly people.

Over the years, it launched a variety of activities, including a dining hall for senior citizens. It also organizes volunteers to visit the homes of the elderly to do house chores and talk with them to relieve their loneliness.

“I was alone at home a while ago and fell to the ground, and the volunteers sent me to hospital and offered me meals,” said Cao, 79, from northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

“They are like family to me here.”

The Beautiful Sunset holds a myriad of performing activities for seniors spending the winter in Hainan, including the New Year gala.

“We have a lot of opportunities to perform thanks to the center,” said Jia Cuiying, from the northern Shanxi Province.

“When I’m on stage, I feel like I’m 30 years old again.”

Liu Huamin, 78, from Xinjiang, said: “The center is literally a ‘treasure bowl.’ There are professors, doctors and performers from around the country.”

Liu said the center binds them together and makes them feel warm.

Fu said: “We will make it home, sweet home for them.”


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