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China’s silver hair industry about to boom ?

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Sixty became the new 40 in the west a while ago — but I never thought I’d see that day in China.

西方社会早就迈向了老龄化,人到六十才算步入壮年——我没想到的是,中国老人们也即将迎来这一天。

The mainland’s sixtysomethings have led a more harrowing life than the average Botoxed Baby Boomer. When they were little, Mao Zedong gave them the Great Leap Forward and a famine that killed millions; when they were teens, there was the Cultural Revolution. Famine, revolution and political pogroms do tend to age one so.

比起热衷于打肉毒针瘦脸的西方婴儿潮一代,中国老人的一生可谓命途多舛:他们孩提时赶上了大跃进和自然灾害;风华正茂的青春期遭遇了文化大革命。饥饿、社会运动和政治打击夺去了他们的青春,提前给他们留下了岁月的痕迹。

 

But 30 years of prosperity later, China’s elders seem to be ready to relive the youth they never had — and to spend money on it. They aren’t all sitting around hoarding their renminbi and meddling in the lives of their children, as the conventional wisdom has it. Urban middle-class seniors are taking up sports such as hiking, biking and “square dancing”, in addition to more traditional pursuits such as taichi, mah-jong and minding other people’s business.

然而此后三十年,随着中国走向繁荣富强,老人们似乎迎来了人生中的第二个春天,终于可以去挥霍他们从未感受过的青春。不同于人们对中国老人的刻板印象,他 们中有许多人既不是一毛不拔的铁公鸡,也不爱为儿女的事操闲心。除了打太极、搓麻将和管闲事等传统项目,城市中产阶级老年人开始玩起了单车、暴走、广场舞等户外运动。

 

Paradoxically, it is the same Communist party that took away their youth that is giving them the time, the money and the financial freedom to enjoy their dotage. City-dwelling mainlanders retire frightfully young (as early as 55 for men and 45 for women), enjoy an ample pension (unlike rural contemporaries) and own valuable homes that were practically given to them when Beijing privatised the urban housing stock at the end of the last century.

有趣的是,他们今天能有钱有闲、能享受财务自由,得感谢当年给他们的青春留下缺憾的中国GCD。在许多中国大陆的城市里,人们退休之早,令人难以置信。在许多男性从55岁、女性从45岁起,便不再工作开始领取颇为丰厚的退休工资。除此之外,他们还有自己的房产,上世纪90年代城市住房私有化时,他们几乎相当于免费从国家那里分到了一套家庭住房。

 

It’s been described as the biggest ever one-off transfer of wealth, and it fell right into the lap of today’s 60-plus hikers, bikers and square dancers — people such as the sprightly old geezers in Shanghai’s Ruijin Sub-district Cycling Club. They dress up in skin-tight neon and Lycra for weekend cycling excursions that are rarely shorter than 100km a day.

有人将这场私有化称作历史上最大规模的一次性财富转移,而它的受益者正是今天六十来岁的暴走族、单车族和广场舞大妈们。在上海瑞金街道骑行俱乐部,你能看到不少成天乐呵呵的大爷大妈。每逢周末,他们便会穿着荧光色的紧身衣,去上海周边骑行,每日里程很少低于100公里。

 

Five years ago, the club rode all the way to Inner Mongolia, a 29-day trip towards the northern border. The oldest cyclist was 74: he bought his septuagenarian wife a Rmb4,000 ($670) model for the trip, but himself rode a one-speed push bike — a maicaiche, or “buying-vegetables bike” — for the whole 1,700km journey.

5年前,在俱乐部的组织下,老骑手们一路向北,历时29天骑到了内蒙古。车队里年龄最大的骑手那是就已74岁了,为了完成1700公里的壮举,他给年逾古稀的老伴买了辆4000元的自行车,而自己却骑一辆不能变速的“买菜车”。

 

I fit right into the club’s demographic, and I also ride a maicaiche, but there all similarity ends: when I and a Financial Times colleague in her 20s joined the old birds for an outing one recent spring weekend, they had to cut the distance to a measly 15km just so we didn’t drop dead on them en route.

我与自行车俱乐部的骑手们年纪相仿。不久前的一个周末,我和一位20来岁的《金融时报》同事加入这群骑行老鸟的行列,我骑着中国人所谓的“买菜车”参加了俱乐部的活动。结果,为了避免半路累死我们,老人们不得不将原定行程缩减到区区15公里。

 

It was 7am on a Sunday, and everyone we rode past on our way to a suburban park seemed elderly and irritatingly vigorous: there were old people doing taichi; old people working out on the outdoor cross trainers one sees in every Shanghai neighbourhood; even old people taking their caged birds for a walk. By comparison, youngsters are couch potatoes (not having had decades of deprivation, economic and social dislocation to toughen them up).

那是周日早上7点,我们骑车前往郊区的某个公园。一路上,我发现身边经过的每个人都老当益壮,精力充沛得让人羡慕嫉妒恨:他们打太极的打太极;玩健身器械的玩器械;遛鸟的遛鸟。相比之下,中国的年轻人反而更倾向于“宅”在家里上网煲剧。他们从小娇生惯养,没有经历过物资匮乏、一穷二白和颠沛流离,自然不如老年人坚韧。

 

The elders are maddeningly cheerful to boot: it seems they have spent a lifetime “eating bitterness”, as the Chinese saying goes, and are now ready to spit it out.

中国的老年人的精力无比旺盛,他们吃了一辈子苦,现在终于可以吐出苦水尝点甜头了。

 

Yang Jianhua, 71, is a pint-sized former factory worker bursting with a rather exhausting amount of joie de vivre: gesticulating wildly and leaping about, she lists all the things Chinese old people can do to keep busy, from singing to dancing to art to piano. Lin Xuejun, 66, is one of her cycling mates: he was previously a senior executive at a state-owned enterprise and, when he retired five years ago, he felt the weight of time on his hands. But now he cycles every weekend, swims for an hour every day and takes two long walks every day. With his neon cycling shirt, Lycra trousers and wraparound shades, he should consider a second career as a geriatric sports model. “We prefer to spend money on biking equipment than on medicine,” he says.

矮小的杨建华今年71岁了,她以前曾在工厂里上班。退休后,她才算真正享受到人生无尽的乐趣。她兴奋地用手势和体态向我展示中国老人们充实的生活:唱歌、 跳舞、绘画和弹钢琴。66岁的林学军是杨女士在自行车俱乐部的骑友,退休之前他曾在国企担任高管。5年前退休时,他觉得必须活得精彩方能不辜负光阴。现在每个周末,他都要去骑行;每天游一小时泳、散两次步。他的骑行装备都非常专业,简直应该去做专业的老年健身教练。他告诉我:“与其把钱花在买药上,还不如花在骑行装备上呢。”

 

And these days, the senior buck is a powerful force in the Chinese economy, says Matthew Crabbe, retail analyst at Mintel, who points out that there are enough over-60s to populate the UK, Italy, France and Germany combined. They have disposable income, they like to try new things — and they don’t just want nappies and baby food, he says.

市场研究咨询公司英敏特的零售业分析师马修•克拉布表示,近年来,老年群体已成为中国经济的生力军。中国六十岁以上的老龄人口数量超过了英国、意大利、法国和德国人口的总和。这些中国老人有可支配收入,喜欢尝试新鲜事物,他们想要的绝不止尿布和婴儿食品。

 

There’s a whole generation of Mao-toughened elders just getting into the swing of spending on themselves. And with the start they had in life — they could live for decades.

经过毛泽东时代的锻炼,这些坚韧的老人将是长寿的一代。如今他们的黄金时代才刚刚展开,未来几十年里,他们将把更多钱花在自己身上。

2016-06-22

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