Com­mu­nity spirit en­livens na­tion’s golden agers

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA

As soon as Chen Xuemin re­ceived her pen­sion last month, she­madead­o­na­tionto her lo­cal com­mu­nity the­ater.

The the­ater’s di­rec­tor, Nong Miao­miao, who lives in the same Bei­jing com­mu­nity, had heard at the end of Au­gust that Chen’s hus­band was se­ri­ously ill. Along with 20 other peo­ple, Chen made a video of their lat­est per­for­mances, and sent it with their best wishes to the cou­ple. It was the last per­for­mance Chen’s hus­band ever saw.

The the­ater, cre­ated by the dis­trict gov­ern­ment and Ts­inghua Univer­sity in 2014, was con­ceived as an ex­per­i­ment in bring­ing to­gether se­nior cit­i­zens to ad­min­is­ter their own com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties.

“We want all res­i­dents to take part in run­ning theirown com­mu­nity and to gen­er­ate the kind of so­cial vi­tal­ity that works­for them,” said LiQiang, dean of the school of so­cial sciences at Ts­inghua Univer­sity, who over­sees the pro­gram.

“If the res­i­dents have a good rea­son to be more closely in­te­grated with one another, a har­mo­nious and happy com­mu­nity will take shape,” Li said.

It is no se­cret that China’s aging so­ci­ety is one of its big­gest so­cial is­sues. China has more than 220 mil­lion peo­ple over 60 years old, 16.1 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, and both the ab­so­lute num­ber and the per­cent­age are grow­ing.

Of those se­nior cit­i­zens, 15.3 per­cent be­lieve they need to be taken care of, more than dou­ble the amount in 2000, putting huge pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment.

“One way to ad­dress the aging prob­lem is for old peo­ple to learn to bet­ter care for them­selves and for each other,” Li said.

Es­tab­lished in the 1990s, the com­mu­nity where Chen andNong live has a poor en­vi­ron­ment and old pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties. Most res­i­dents are se­nior cit­i­zens who were re­set­tled here when the build­ings were new and their orig­i­nal res­i­dences were de­mol­ished.

When Li be­gan work­ing with the com­mu­nity, he setup a com­mit­tee of 34, most of whom were re­tired. They iden­tify prob­lems, lis­ten to the other res­i­dents and dis­cuss so­lu­tions. And dis­trict au­thor­i­ties pay at­ten­tion: A lot of their sug­ges­tions have been adopted, such as build­ing bike sheds and plant­ing more trees.

“At first, they did not have much idea about what they should do, and they were re­luc­tant to at­tend meet­ings,” said Liu Huili, head of the gov­ern­ment of­fice in the com­mu­nity. “Later, when they found they re­ally could make a dif­fer­ence, their mo­ti­va­tion grew.”

One ex­am­ple of the se­nior cit­i­zens’ new­found en­thu­si­asm is Li Jian­ming, 78, who vol­un­teered to set up a tai chi class and­nowl­eads a dozen of his fel­low res­i­dents as they ex­er­cise in a nearby park for at least two hours every morn­ing.

“If com­mu­ni­ties are well man­aged, many so­cial prob­lems are eas­ily solved,” dean Li Qiang said. the

LI XIN / XIN­HUA

A group of se­nior cit­i­zens en­joy their leisure time at a com­mu­nity cen­ter in Bei­jing’s Feng­tai dis­trict in Novem­ber.

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