Life is a journey, so learn to travel it well

Life doesn't end with retirement. In fact, that's when it begins for many people. There is a whole world out there, and silver-hairs are an increasingly valuable market.

Seniors are an increasingly valuable market in China. A recent hiring notice went viral on social media, for two people aged 60 or above, experienced on buying online.

The annual pay offered by Alibaba Group was 350,000 yuan (US$55,515) to 400,000 yuan.

Some say that it is a signal that the e-commerce giant is targeting at the silver-haired age group. It is a sizable market, there are more than 230 million people aged over 60 in China and the number is expected to rise to 255 million by 2020, which will account for 17.8 percent of the population.

The concept of a lucrative market in senior people has been around a long time, but just working out how to sell to them is still an issue.

How do they spend their days? What are their likes and fears?

Shanghai Daily interviewed three elderly people, one in his 60s, one in her 70s and one in her 80s.

Some said traveling allows them to take the ups and downs in life more lightly. Some find peace in Buddhism. For all of them, life only starts when you are retired.

Hu Canji and his wife at the Sahara in Africa

Hu Canji, 68

Hu Canji said the period from 60 to 70 is the best time in one life.

“The burdens of work have been eased and you are freer to do what you like,” Hu said.

After retiring at around 60, he and his wife have visited more than 70 countries, covering all seven continents.

 He doesn’t know much English or any other foreign languages, so they always prefer to go in a package tour.

He likes to take photos with his smartphone during the trip and share them immediately on WeChat Moments.

“At first we didn’t know how to use WiFi in a foreign country, so we asked the tour guide and gradually we know that you can simply rent a mobile WiFi router before leaving the country,” Hu told Shanghai Daily.

Hu uses a drone and also shares photos via his smartphone and has joined several WeChat travel groups.

“For sure you need time and money for traveling around,” Hu said, adding he was lucky to have both.

“Some people take it (traveling) as suffering but I quite enjoy it even though it is not always comfortable in a country that you are not so familiar with,” said Hu. “I just want to go and see places as many as possible when I’m still able to do so.

“If you are over 70 they ask you to present a certificate showing your state of health every time you travel; if you are over 80 then most travel agents will turn you down.”

 For him, traveling is maybe no more different than line dancing for some others.

“You have to find your own interests. If you keep staying at home, time ticks by fast.”

Li Lu (second from the right) received an award from the local alumni association.

Li Lu, 83

Li Lu is one of those rejected by a travel agent. That didn’t prevent Alibaba Group inviting her for the job, one of the 10 candidates.

Li retired 27 years ago when she was 56. From 1985 to 1993 she was the secretary-general at the local Hangzhou alumni association of Tsinghua University, one of the top universities in the country. And she has remained closely connected to it.

“We have had a climbing team since 2009, where retired alumni gather every Thursday regardless of weather,” said Li. “At first we used email, and then it was a QQ group chat and now we have a WeChat group.”

At the beginning, some members had to be guided how to use WeChat.

The climbing event is usually followed by a casual meal with costs shared by participants. They exchange opinions on almost everything, from current affairs to health issues to the latest technologies.

But it is not just a bunch of old fogies reminiscing. They visit enterprises founded by younger alumni; inspect nursing homes and have even invited people to give lectures on blockchains, Bitcoin and artificial intelligence.

“We have an idea about taking care of the elderly in groups,” Li told Shanghai Daily.

When a member is ill or hospitalized, they help each other on such things as registration, seeking advice from doctors and considering issues about assisted living.

“You have to face it all by yourself with aging, not through anyone else,” said Li.

Li wants to do something bigger for those aged from 60 to 90 who are still able to move easily outdoors than just getting them shopping online.

“I think the elderly desperately need a good catering service, and trustworthy nannies,” Li told Shanghai Daily.

She doesn’t care more about the money.

“At my age, if you are still concerned about that, you are saving money for other people,” she said, half joking.

Wang Ying (left) dressed up as a deity at a local celebration for the Chinese New Year.

Wang Ying, 71

Wang Ying is happy to keep herself busy. She suffered hardships in her 20s and became a Buddhism follower years ago.

She works almost six days a week, either teaching dance steps for the elderly, or in a community event or tea ceremonies.

She also volunteers at Buddhist temples.

“I don’t want to enjoy leisure time as most people expect the elderly will do,” said Wang. “Keep working is the best; that makes me younger.”

She has a daughter, and her granddaughter is attending college in another city. She makes phone calls with her daughter regularly. Apart from that, she seldom interferes in her daughter’s family life.

“Attending these events helps me find myself again and makes me confident,” said Wang who emphasized the empowerment of dedicating oneself into something.

“That has increased my wisdom and strength toward life.”