Cultural industries catering for senior citizens enjoy huge potential for development in China

A female citizen who has learnt how to shoot videos with smart phone shows a video of her life after retirement in a community bookstore in Hanjiang district, Yangzhou, east China’s Jiangsu province, Nov. 12, 2020. (Photo by Zhuang Wenbin/People’s Daily Online)

Contrary to the stereotype of old people who are usually believed to idle away their time enjoying warm sunshine in a rocking chair, Chinese senior citizens are engaging in increasingly diverse recreational and sports activities.


Li Fanglan, a senior resident in Chaoyang district of Beijing, is among a fast-growing number of elderly citizens in China who have led rich lives since retirement.


Li is a frequenter of an activity center for senior citizens in the residential complex she lives in. With facilities for such leisure activities as ping-pong, karaoke, dance, bowling, billiards, as well as badminton, the activity center is just like a gym or an indoor stadium.


“This place has good facilities, and the charges are reasonable. I could learn to play sports from staff members of the center and have lunch downstairs, which is very convenient,” Li told People’s Daily after finishing a badminton game in the badminton hall on the third floor of the activity center, adding that she takes exercise here basically every other day.


As China gradually improves old-age pension system, senior citizens’ material requisites have been well guaranteed, and they have therefore started to have more spiritual and cultural needs, said Li Jing, head of the research institute of aging society and culture under the China Research Center on Aging (CRCA).


According to Li, China hasn’t become a graying society for long, and more than half of the country’s senior citizens are in fact “young elderly people” between the ages of 60 and 69.


These “young elderly people” enjoy relatively high savings after retirement, Li said, explaining that these people who have both money and time to spend are also referred to as the “new elderly people.”


The “new elderly people” are willing to take part in extensive cultural activities, buy high-quality cultural products, and seek personalized cultural services, according to Li, who noted that most of these “new elderly people” can learn to use computer and smart phones, and accept new concepts like paying for knowledge, online shopping, and social networking.


Cultural industries catering for the elderly are going to witness a growing trend toward products and services that are popular among relatively young senior residents, Li said.


In March 2020, when the country was making nationwide efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, China Association of the Universities for the Aged provided online learning platforms for all universities for the aged for free, including a mini program and an app.


Since they were launched, the mini program and app have won favor with elderly students.


As data have shown, the mini program and app got more than one million users within two months, during which each of the popular courses, including courses in vocal music, matching clothes, basics of traditional Chinese medicine, electronic organ, and cucurbit flute, were viewed more than two million times.


A 61-year-old senior female citizen in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province, has taken over 160 online courses via the mini program of online universities for the aged.


Ma Jun, a 65-year-old female citizen in Dongcheng district, Beijing, enjoys capturing beautiful things in life with smart phone and sharing pictures via her WeChat. It gives her great joy when her friends like or forward the photos she carefully edited.


“We didn’t have mobile phones when we were young. Now these technological products make us feel like we are young again,” said Ma’s husband, who has been listening to audio books via app on his mobile phone.


“Although I need to pay for the contents, it’s definitely money well spent. Audio books are just so convenient for me—a bookworm with presbyopia,” he added.


“My friends who are in their sixties always set aside part of their budget for cultural consumptions like travel and reading, for which they would rather be thrifty in other aspects,” said Yu Hai, a professor with the Department of Sociology of Fudan University.


“Seniors long for a good life, just like young people. They are willing to spend money and take action for their wishes. They hope for both good care and a rich life,” Yu added.


As the Chinese government and society are paying more and more attention to the country’s elderly population, cultural industries serving the elderly see great prospects for development, despite the fact that cultural industries serving the elderly are still in their initial stage, when a mature market is yet to be cultivated and supervision of relevant market activities is yet to be strengthened.


In the future, the development of the Internet industry will generate endless, diverse and high-quality cultural products and services for the elderly, said E Junyu, chairman of Anxin Pension, a Beijing-based construction engineering firm that provides services for improving living environment for the elderly.


Cultural products and services designed for the elderly will be available both online and offline and enjoy more categories and diversified market, E said.

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