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Discover China: Senior schools a class act for "empty-nesters" in east China
From:Xinhua  |  2020-06-14 21:29

FUZHOU, June 14 (Xinhua) -- In the village of Jianghou, some senior citizens are dancing, practicing Chinese calligraphy and reading books.

Mao Mingji, 68, enjoys attending healthcare classes and doing some sports.

"I feel so energetic these days," she says. "I am healthier than before."

The village is located in the county of Shaxian, east China's Fujian Province. Shaxian is known nationwide for delicacies such as dumplings, rice noodles and soup steamed with Chinese herbs.

But three years ago, the village presented a completely different picture.

Most elderly people felt bored and did not know what to do, Mao says.

In 2017, county officials began piloting a senior school program in Shaxian, bringing aging people together to study, dine and give one another company. This has enriched the lives of local empty nesters, whose children have grown up and left home.

So far, about 40 senior schools have been established in 12 villages and townships in Shaxian, benefiting more than 10,000 senior citizens in the county, according to official figures.

"The senior school program has proven to be an effective way to enrich the lives of the empty nesters," said county official Yang Xingzhong.


In Shaxian, there are many empty nesters because young people have left their rural hometowns to seek opportunities in the cities. Many young people work at restaurants selling famed Shaxian delicacies in cities.

According to figures released by the Shaxian delicacies industry development center, there are close to 88,000 Shaxian delicacies restaurants in the country, and 32,000 of these are owned by people from Shaxian.

While the delicacies offered job opportunities, they also took a lot of young adults from Shaxian to cities, leaving behind their parents and grandparents in villages.

Feeling empty and bored, many empty nesters could only spend their days rambling, drinking or even gambling.

"All we did all day was just talk, talk and talk under the big trees in the village," says Mao. "Sometimes we simply nodded off."


To solve the problem, in June 2017, the county introduced the concept of "universities for the elderly" and began piloting a senior school program under which a work team led by the deputy county head integrates resources such as libraries, classrooms and cultural centers.

Village officials are put in charge of the schools which train volunteers as teachers to help and educate the aged. Various activities involve the elderly to keep them engaged.

The program encourages senior citizens to undertake a variety of courses such as making souvenirs and growing vegetables.

It also lets them dine together and talk to one another for emotional support.

"They don't really care much about what they eat, but they care about eating together, because they enjoy each other's company," says Chen Yi'an, founder of the Fujian Association for Lifelong Education for All. "They make dumplings and steamed buns together."

"The program created a lot of group activities for the senior citizens, and brings relief to their hearts," says Chen. "It helps them walk out of the shadows of loneliness and improves their physical conditions too."

The senior school program relieves the burden on families, and lowers the cost of tending the graying population, according to local offical Liao Shanjian.

"The program truly created a lot of benefits for the elderly and for our society as a whole," Liao says. Enditem