Senior Living

I often suggest to Jason that I could create a perfect living situation by taking bits and pieces of places that we have lived and bringing them together in one idyllic community. I am currently reading Lost Continent by Bill Bryson and I find that he has a similar preoccupation in the book – constructing a perfect American community he calls Amalgam.

Incidentally, I am completely underwhelmed by Bryson’s work. This comes as a surprise to me as I have quite a few friends that enjoy his writing immensely. I’ve had a few chuckles but they are the guilty guffaws that one has at the expense of others – the result of shallow attacks that speak as much to one’s own insecurities as to the explicit object of attention. Lost Continent is his first book and I suspect that his style has matured in the last 20 years. The question is, is he still getting laughs by creating buffon-ish charactitures of others?

Anyway, I digress. The perfect town I create wouldn’t be called Amalgam but instead have a name that speaks to the imposing geographic feature alongside it (preferably mountains and ocean). One of the things I would bring from China for my perfect world would be the way of life of seniors.

We were told that the mandatory retirement age in China is 55. I have attempted to confirm this online but find that gender differences in retirement (women – 50, men -55) have been challenged recently and that the national government has considered raising the reirement age to 65 to offset rising cost due to the aging population. While my searches have revealed that these topics have been under discussion the past 5 years, I cannot find out if the policy has been changed yet. So I will stick with what I was told but please know that these numbers may be incorrect.

Whatever the mandatory retirement age is, the fact remains that seniors here in China lead very active lives. Beginning first thing in the morning and continuing until well after dark the public parks are full of seniors using the fitness equipment installed in said places instead of children’s playgrounds. The public parks are also full of seniors practicing instruments, banding together in open groups of as many as hundreds to sing traditional Chinese songs (people bring their own song books and others come with their instruments), working on their ballroom dancing, playing badminton and local equivalent of hacky sack, and practicing more traditional and more Western movement including tai chi, fan dancing and aerobics. Even seniors with walkers and in wheel chairs are out there doing what they can to take part in the exercise.

In addition (and this aspect of it all is not something I would import to my perfect place – no offense intended to the grandparents of my children), from my vantage point it seems that most grandparents are the primary caregivers for their children. The park is full of small children being tended by their grandparents – a parent is a rare sight. At the kindergarten grandmothers and grandfathers are much more likely to be dropping off and picking up children than parents) although you do see a fair number of those, too). We have a well-off acquaintance with a high school-aged son. Although her parents have a nice apartment of their own, when her son was born they moved in to care for the child. They run the household (cook, clean, etc) and look after the child so the parents may be completely devoted to work.

In general, when I think of my “golden years,” I imagine being in a place where it is easy for me to be active and fit, plugged into friendship networks, and fulfilling important social roles.

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