Never too old to try novelties, new hobbies

Zhu Yuting
Livestreaming and fashion, among other activities, are revitalizing retired and 60-plus-year-old women.
Zhu Yuting

Editor's note:

How do you define aging? Slow, old-fashioned, with housework and neighborhood gossip? Over 36 percent of Shanghai's population is 60 or older, and many are keen to explore new things in fashion, art, sports and philanthropy. This series, "Ageless Wonder," focuses on the colorful lives of seniors and their inclusive and innovative spirit.

Shot by Jiang Xiaowei. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Subtitles by Zhu Yuting, Song Sitong.

At 62, Shanghai native Lu Xiaojie is exploring popular lifestyles.

Fashion shows, livestreaming and short movies are no longer labels for young people but are equally popular among the older generation of people.

According to the 50th Statistic Report on China's Internet Development, the number of netizens in China reached 1.051 billion as of June 2022, with 11.3 percent of them 60 years of age or older.

Never too old to try novelties, new hobbies
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Lu Xiaojie, 62, is busy discovering and exploring new elements in her life.

"I haven't retired yet, but I always wonder how I could make use of time and make it more exciting and meaningful after I retire," Lu told Shanghai Daily.

"I've been making plans for my retirement since I was 50," Lu said.

She invited a group of women of her age to form a "ladies group" with the intention to explore new things, including taking portrait shots and filming their daily lives.

In 2018, one of her acquaintances introduced her to an organization called "Classy Lady," whose members are elderly women from around the country. It now has nearly 2,000 members.

They are often referred to as "fashionable grandmas."

The group's slogan is "to define age with fashion."

"Classy Lady shared the same views as mine," Lu said. "I immediately joined them without hesitation."

Never too old to try novelties, new hobbies

Lu Xiaojie

Never too old to try novelties, new hobbies
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Lu Xiaojie dresses up before taking photos at an event held by the Classy Lady.

He Daling founded the group in 2018. She traveled a lot prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I had been traveling abroad for many years. The elderly I met on my trips left a deep impression on me, particularly those in France and Japan," He said.

"They exuded confidence and dressed stylishly. And they were so free, with no burden from family that I saw among the elderly people in our country."

He hopes that the "classy grandmas" will not only provide new inspiration for middle-aged and older women in China but will also renew the entire society's perception of growing old.

She and her team members released the first short video on Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, and it quickly accumulated over 40 million views.

Many elderly people take on a new look in the short movies and livestreams, such as wearing qipao and high heels, wearing lipstick and wandering down the street to take fashion shots.

Never too old to try novelties, new hobbies
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A photographer takes photos of Lu.

So did Lu, who participated in a fashion show in Beijing for the first time in 2020.

"I participated in a training session before going on the show," Lu said, "When I catwalked on stage, I felt so proud of myself."

She went on to do other performances and eventually became an inspirational icon of Classy Lady.

Never too old to try novelties, new hobbies

Lu Xiaojie

Lu's confidence and strength are linked to her rich life experience.

At the age of 30, she went to Japan to study.

"I said goodbye to my son and quit my very secure job at a state-owned company."

Lu said she wanted to learn about advanced management strategies and was keen to introduce them to China.

She returned after her studies and established a foreign trading company for the production and sale of bedding and fabric items.

Never too old to try novelties, new hobbies
Ti Gong

Screenshots of Lu Xiaojie during livestreaming

Last year, she embraced livestreaming.

"I've spent the last 20 years working in traditional industries. At first, I disliked the e-commerce because I believed it could not deliver the finest service and experience compared with offline service," Lu said.

However, seeing the rapid advancement of digital devices as well as the brisk growth of the livestreaming sector, Lu felt that she and her organization needed to keep up with the times, embrace and make good use of new things.

"I gradually realized that livestreaming can indeed increase profits," Lu told a reporter.

Then she began to sell online and learned how to engage with viewers in chatrooms.

Never too old to try novelties, new hobbies

Lu Xiaojie (right) and one of her neighbors participate in a livestream.

She started off by sharing her personal experiences.

"I didn't expect so many people would enjoy my stories," she remarked.

Before selling things, Lu would thoroughly research the products. For example, before livestreaming about pearls, she researched extensively about the products, including the qualities of pearls from various areas.

"I learned a lot about the different types of pearls, such as Nanyang pearls, golden pearls and Tahiti pearls," Lu said. "I also gave customers matching tips when I introduced those pearls.

As a result, her livestreaming was a huge success, with sales volume reaching 300,000 yuan (US$42,600).

She then used the livestreaming sales to further her own business.

"We have three livestreaming rooms now, all managed by young people in my company," Lu explained. "I told them about my experience, which I learned from Classy Lady's online rooms."

Never too old to try novelties, new hobbies
Ti Gong

Lu and her friends pose in specially made qipao, which features many of Shanghai's landmarks.

All of those trendy pieces are just the beginning of Lu's "new life." She has more plans for the future.

She is planning to make a short film on qipao and how it is portrayed in Shanghai's history.

"I am a big fan of qipao," Lu said. "I have about 100 qipao in my closet."

She also intends to travel and visit new places.

"I used to be very busy with work and didn't have the opportunity to travel around.

"I'd like to visit Antarctica, Dunhuang and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region."

Lu's positive and joyful nature has earned her the nickname "jiejie," meaning sister.

"Under her influence, I am now a grandma who takes care of my grandson in the morning and a fashion lady in the afternoon," said Wang Xiuhong, one of Lu's closest friends and a new member of the Classy Lady club.

"I believe if my heart is young, time will not fly; if I always feel happy, time will still be there for me," Lu said.

Never too old to try novelties, new hobbies
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Lu (right) and her friend, Wang Xiuhong, pose for a photograph.

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