‘Grey wall of China’: the town at the frontline of a looming ageing crisis
In Rudong, where a third of the population is over 60, a university for older people is one solution to a changing demographic
It has been dubbed the grey wall of China, a demographic shift so big you can almost see it from space.
The worlds most populous country is getting old. Plummeting birthrates, the result of the much-loathed one-child policy, and dramatically improved life expectancy mean that by 2050 more than a quarter of Chinas population almost 500 million people will be over 65.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the most geriatric city in China, Rudong county, where as many as 30% of the 1m inhabitants are over 60. This is a place from the future, a city that many ageing western nations could learn from, with its proliferating retirement homes, its jobs for older workers and, yes, its University of the Aged.
On a dull Tuesday morning dozens of older people have gathered in a school building to play a stirring rendition of Beethovens ninth.
We come here for happiness and joy! beams Yu Bing, a sprightly 72-year-old who is among the silver-haired students in classroom 301 using Chinese hulusi flutes to perform the 19th-century symphony.
Yu, a retired doctor who lives nearby with her 80-year-old husband, Zhang Fanshen, is one of about 570 students at the university, a government-funded centre that offers the regions elderly citizens classes in everything from Latin dance steps and literature to how to use smartphones.
Even though were not young in age, we are happy, says the septuagenarian, whose flute lessons are part of a packed weekly schedule of social activities that also includes dawn dancing and percussion sessions, calligraphy classes and painting workshops. Theres so much to do we enjoy life here.
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