The golden agers

A McDonald's restaurant in Shanghai (Nancy Linenkugel)

Sister Nancy recently traveled to several cities in China and today's blog relates part of her experiences.

The rickshaw slowly wound its way around the streets of a traditional Chinese village. The rickshaw driver seemed to be having a tough time keeping our vehicle going along smoothly and we were actually slower than other rickshaws that were passing us. I was thinking that two of us as passengers was a too-heavy load for the small rickshaw driver, but the flat roadway helped.

Our slow speed allowed me to get a good look at a playground we passed. All the playground equipment was painted bright yellow, red and blue. However, there wasn't a slide. There weren't swings. There weren't the usual things you find in an American playground.

This playground wasn't for children. It was filled with Chinese senior citizens. They were vigorously using treadmill-type platforms, foot platforms that swung out and back, and hand-held weights used for various exercises. The entire place looked like a lot of fun, as folks were laughing, talking and helping each other. 

I learned that in China men must retire at age 60 and women must retire at age 55. This is mandatory. Because persons are living longer and being healthier, that gives many years between retirement and going to heaven.

We also visited a park, and all the covered sidewalk's low side walls were filled with older persons playing card games or playing chess. The card-playing groups had at least four persons playing cards with several other persons standing by observing. The serious card players used a cardboard "desk" with an elastic band to hold the cards so they didn't blow away. Players simply slipped the cards under the elastic band.

I came away with the sense that these early retirees could create a wonderfully vibrant "Senior Service Corps" in which the skills and experiences of these senior persons could be shared with many. Or not. Maybe the best approach is for folks to simply enjoy life and feel fulfilled no matter what the age. That's the bigger quest. Say, can you deal me into that hand?

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati.]

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