China’s Views on Aging Being Reshaped By an Eighty Year Old Model

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BEIJING — At his 80th birthday, prior to cranking the techno music up, the man who is popularly known as “China’s hottest grandpa” takes a break from his duties as D.J. to have a laugh at the traditional celebration in his country for the elderly.

In September, at his party, birthday boy Wang Deshun said: “I should be wearing a long robe; the word longevity should be embroidered on the front of it.” The silver haired model, actor and artist is far from looking frail, he wore black jeans and a crisp white shirt, his back was held straight and he had a humoristic glow in his eyes. He then added, as he pretended to hobble; “I should be helped into an old-style wooden chair, being assisted by two young maidens.”

Mr. Wang who is determined to ward off physical and mental stagnation, while devoting ample time to daily exercise, has explored new ideas and skills. Last year, for the first time, he walked the runway; a national sensation was caused by his physique. Subverting the image that China has what it means to be old, is something he takes great pleasure in doing.

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In China, old age begins relatively early. For women, the legal retirement age is fifty if they are workers and fifty five if they are civilian servants, for most men it is sixty. In China, being older typically means being respected, however many times also sentimentalized. “Yeye” or “Nainai” is how someone as young as fifty may be addressed, this means grandpa or grandma and is used whether or not they have had offspring.

In a recent interview held at a Beijing hotel, he said: “One way to determine whether or not you are old is to ask yourself, `Do I dare to try something I have not tried before? Nature determines your age; however, your state of mind is determined by you.´ Being called grandpa is not something that Mr. Wang has escaped — he is the father of as well as a grandfather to a two-year-old — however the accolades accompany the honor for how he embraces the new as well as for his vigour.

 


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