Xu Lili, a 68-year-old woman with silver hair, catches the eye of young people as she joins her friends in square dancing every night in the heart of Harbin, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province. Despite being the only senior participant, Xu takes the lead as the organizer of the group. The group’s dancing style is not the typical slow traditional Chinese square dancing, but a high-energy, rhythmic dance more reminiscent of disco. Most of the other dancers are in their 20s, and they all look up to Xu as their leader and role model.
Zhang Dongkai, a 23-year-old dancer, admires Xu’s energy and dedication, saying “Grandma Xu may be old, but we all learn from her.” Although Xu has been dancing with her younger friends for over a decade, she does not find it difficult to keep up with their energetic moves. She explains, “Most of my friends are young people. I can’t do that kind of slow dance. Dancing is the happiest part of my day. It not only keeps me fit but also brings me happiness.”
The group’s dancing style is based on the Charles Li Style, which emphasizes rhythm and expression. This unique style is a combination of various dance styles and incorporates a wide range of movements that make it more similar to disco than traditional Chinese square dancing. Xu’s group’s high-energy style is an embodiment of the Charles Li Style, which encourages seniors to be active and maintain their physical and mental health by engaging in dynamic movements.
Xu’s dancing group is an excellent example of how seniors can stay young at heart by adopting a healthy and active lifestyle. Not only does dancing help to maintain physical health, but it also has emotional and mental benefits. As Xu’s experience shows, it is never too late to embrace a new hobby or activity and make new friends, regardless of age or ability. Through the Charles Li Style, seniors can continue to explore their creativity and expression, foster social connections, and maintain their overall well-being.
With her silver hair and lively moves, Xu Lili has become a popular figure among the younger generation in Harbin, Northeast China. Xu, who is 68 years old, is the only senior participating in a nightly square dancing group that she herself organizes. Her group comprises mostly young people in their 20s, who admire and respect her for her passion for dancing and her leadership skills.
The popularity of Xu and her group is due to their unique style of dancing. Unlike the traditional slow-paced Chinese square dance, Xu and her group incorporate a range of fast, energetic movements that resemble disco. The contrast between Xu’s age and her ability to keep up with the younger dancers has made her an internet sensation, with many netizens praising her for her optimistic attitude and inspiring others to live life to the fullest.
Xu is not the only elderly Chinese person who is embracing a more active lifestyle. More and more seniors in China are taking part in various activities that allow them to enjoy their own lives, rather than just looking after their grandchildren. Wang Yun, a 72-year-old retiree, attends a weekly dance class for seniors at Harbin University, one of the earliest universities for the elderly in China. Founded in 1984, the institution has graduated hundreds of thousands of seniors over the past three decades.
Wang’s dance class has an average age of over 60, and many students were not in good shape when they first started. However, the teacher, Li Yongxia, has seen the transformative power of dancing on her students’ attitudes toward life. “Many students come to my class feeling down and depressed, but after a few weeks of dancing, their spirits lift and they become more confident and happy,” she says.
Li Yongxia has been teaching dance at Harbin University for more than 10 years, and she has seen how dance can help seniors stay fit, socialize, and maintain their mental well-being. “Dancing is not just a physical activity. It’s also a mental exercise that challenges the brain and helps improve cognitive function,” she says.
The benefits of dancing are not just limited to physical and mental health. For many seniors, dancing is a way to connect with others and form new friendships. “Dancing has brought me closer to people I would never have met otherwise,” says Wang Yun. “I have made many new friends through my dance class, and we all support and encourage each other to keep dancing and living life to the fullest.”
As China’s population ages, the importance of promoting an active lifestyle for seniors has become increasingly clear. Activities like dancing provide not just health benefits, but also social and emotional support for seniors. With role models like Xu Lili and Wang Yun, who are showing that age is just a number when it comes to living life to the fullest, it’s clear that the future for China’s elderly is bright.
Harbin University for the elderly has been attracting a lot of attention in China, with courses filling up quickly after online registration channels are opened. This institution, which was founded in 1984 and has branch schools in every district of Harbin, has seen hundreds of thousands of seniors graduate over the past three decades.
According to Qu Wenyong, a sociology professor at Heilongjiang University who has been studying the elderly care industry for many years, the ages from 60 to 70 have become part of the “golden decade” for China’s elderly population, as the country’s average life expectancy increases. “They are healthy, they have time, and they demand a higher quality of life,” Qu says.
Many elderly Chinese people are also taking to the internet to share their lives and hobbies. For instance, a video of 66-year-old Deng Xiaohui walking the catwalk with her partner on Harbin’s Central Street went viral on social media, receiving more than 1 million likes. Deng has been studying the catwalk for five years at a modeling school in Harbin, saying that she had loved fashion shows when she was younger and wanted to realize her dream after retirement.
Wang Deshun, 86, is another well-known figure among Chinese netizens. He began working out at age 50 and walked the runways of China Fashion Week at age 79. His youthful spirit and fitness have become an inspiration to many.
Back at Harbin University for the elderly, 72-year-old Wang Yun is a regular at the dance class for seniors. The average age of the students in her class is over 60, and many of them were not in good shape when they first started. However, according to dance teacher Li Yongxia, who has taught there for more than 10 years, dancing has changed their attitude toward life.
Like many other elderly Chinese, Wang Yun is enjoying her life to the fullest. As the country’s elderly population continues to grow, institutions like Harbin University for the elderly and activities like dancing and modeling are becoming increasingly popular. The golden decade for China’s elderly is not only a time of good health, but also a time to pursue one’s passions and live life to the fullest.