Shanghai, the Pyjamas and the Curious Elderly
China is facing an even bigger challenge dealing with its elderly than the US, who promised and entire generation of baby-boomers healthcare when retired and now does not know how to cover it. In China, however, years of one-child-policy lead to a population pyramid heavy on top and slim at the bottom. The world’s saying thanks to the Chinese government for trying to not make our little planet even faster even more over populated. – But the planet of course does not want to help and fix the problems that stem from decades of an enforced one-child-policy.
“How many siblings do you have?” is being one of the first chit-chatter questions in every “We-just-met-and-get-to-know-each-other” small talk elsewhere. In Shanghai though I had to bite my tongue several times to not ask this silly question and look in to surprised Chinese faces looking at with something easily to decipher as “The silly stranger does not know we don’t do siblings here”.
Funny enough Shanghai seems despite of the Chinese one-child-policy full of kids. I encountered much more children around than let’s say back home in Munich, where we got more cars and even more dogs than kids. Still: the vast growing number of elderly in China does take its space. They are reaching out in to public space, wait patiently at 6:30am at the gates of local parks to open, stroll on streets, sit on benches and enjoy lakes, shade and sun. So many mainly happy elderly people – it makes me wonder where the 70+ ers are at home in Europe. Locked up? Anxious at home sitting solitary on the couch? In front of computer-screens enjoying unblocked German Internet and Skyping with their Grandkids in Munich or Berlin? – Or simply toughened from fitness club and tennis court visits, with dyed hair and not to identify as “elderly”? – Hm. I’m not sure.
In Shanghai, ladies and gentlemen with shiny silver hair and wise faces flow down park alleyways, play music and cards, sing Beijing Opera, exercise taijiquan, t’ai chi ch’uan, qigong and all these other in the morning sun amazing looking things with weird names hard to pronounce for the astonished foreigner.
Famously in Shanghai many older people are wearing pyjamas on the street after sunset. I even saw some heads in sleeping hats floating around. People older than yourself are a fun species in China.
When you cross their paths and interrupt their circles, be it for a film shoot or when taking pictures, they come humming around you. Silently surrounding you, perhaps starting to speak Chinese to you from behind like little elves talking elvish. You turn around to the crowd that gathered behind your back, they are so cute, you want to take them home.
See here: A couple going out in PJs on the right of the top pic, the most dodgy DIT place on this planet to be seen in the middle, a fake and a real lady at the very bottom.