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The Chinese Response to Aging

I was lucky enough to travel to Beijing, China, last fall with the American Society on Aging to study the Chinese Response to Aging. We visited senior centers, senior universities, welfare institutions, nursing homes and hospitals.

Of the many remarkable things I witnessed, the early morning activities in Coal Hill Park in downtown Beijing impressed me the most. It was here that I really felt the vitality and friendliness of the Chinese people. Already at 7 a.m. the park was overflowing with people -- many of them older -- involved in all forms of exercise and recreation.

There were older men with long handled paintbrushes bent over drawing calligraphy on the sidewalk. Groups of older people were practicing Tai Chi and Quigong. Younger groups were participating in a vigorous aerobic workout. An energetic young man, surrounded by people of all ages, was teaching Cha Cha. I joined in. After a few minutes he stopped - looked at me, waved and said, "Hi!" Everyone laughed.

I heard music coming from a nearby hill, and climbed up to find five elderly Chinese men playing instruments and singing Opera! As I headed back down I was surprised and thrilled to see couples waltzing to the music of a boom box. And remember it is only 7a.m.in the morning!

Many people were carrying small rackets, and I realized they were headed for a badminton court. They invited me to join in and I had a very enervating 10 minutes of play. Lots of stretching, bending, jumping, running, and laughing. It was such great exercise and fun that I decided to recommend a badminton court to all senior facilities when I returned to the U.S.!

I found experiencing the vitality of life in Coal Hill Park such an inspiration that I ran there every morning and continued to participate in many of the activities. One day I returned at noon and it was absolutely dead. Just groups of Japanese tourists exploring the park. I wished for them that they had been able to experience the excitement of the park at daybreak. There is nothing like it!

If anyone would like more information about the ASA trips please give me a call. I have a 45-minute slide show that goes into greater depth about my adventures with aging in China
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Emily Kimball
3220A West Grace Street
Richmond, VA 23221-1306
(804) 358-5536
Fax (804) 358-2415

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