Elderly living on campus

By Miffy Yu

With the increasing number of elderly people in China, a new mode of spending old age is getting more and more popular. Universities provide a comfortable living environment for the elderly, whether they want to accompany the family, find another job or engage in hobbies.

Yuzhen Zhang, a 57-year-old woman from Shenyang, came to Guangzhou four years ago. She lives in the Zhouzhuan Building of Jinan University with her son, who works at the school as a professor, her daughter-in-law and her 4-year-old granddaughter.

Zhang said the main reason she moved to Guangzhou was to help her son to look after her granddaughter.

“Her parents are busy with work, and I have more leisure just after retirement,” she said.

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Xueyong plays his saxophone at his home near Jinan University.

Xueyong Yu, who moved from northern China to the South after his retirement to help his children, has musical students near Jinan University.

Zhang touched her granddaughter’s head softly and said, “Her kindergarten is near the university. These days some children in the kindergarten were infected with hand, foot and mouth disease, so all the children don’t have to go there. If I were still in Shenyang and could not take care of my granddaughter, I would feel extremely worried about her.

“Guangzhou has better educational resources than Shenyang. We intend to let the granddaughter go to an affiliated elementary school, middle school, high school of Jinan University, and later apply for the entrance examination of Jinan University,” she said.

Zhang said the greatest advantage of living in a college was convenience. “There are many kinds of dishes in the dining hall, where they sell cheaper food than restaurants outside of the university. I can also go to supermarkets to buy food and then cook in my apartment when the family wants to eat Northeastern Chinese cuisine. After dinner, I often go to the playground for a walk with my granddaughter. The dispensary and the affiliated hospital of the university are not far away from home. Usually, I also use the wifi of the university at home. I barely go out of the university gate.”

Chang Feng, 52, is a member of the staff in charge of the Zhouzhuan Building. For nine years she has worked at the building at least 12 hours a day.

“My daily work is checking people who want to enter the building, registering people and their property in and out of the building, and receiving the express packages and postcards instead of the students,” she said. “The salary is not high, but I don’t know what else can I do. A few years ago I received a tumor operation, which cost a lot of money. The rent in Guangzhou is expensive. My daughter is 22 years old, and her wages are also not high in the internship. I will spend my old age on  this job.”

Although she has winter and summer holidays, she can only afford to go home once every three or four years.

“My hometown is in Sichuan province. I feel homesick but the costs to return home are expensive, and it is hard to get tickets. ”

Nevertheless, she said she enjoyed her time at the school. “Fortunately, I got a lot of friends in the university, some are elderly people live here, and some are students in Zhouzhuan Building. I like Jinan University, whether as a place for work or spending old time.”

Xueyong Yu comes from Tianjin and has lived in Yangchengyuan of Jinan University since he retired.

“Guangzhou is more suitable for old age except in the winter without heating and excessive wet months,” Yu said, “especially suitable is living in a university. The air is fresh because of lower automobile exhaust pollution. The sound of car horns, which can wake people in the night, is barely be heard. The security office of university ensures the safety not only of students but also of elderly like us. Hospitals, restaurants, supermarkets, banks, the university has everything. There is also the square, the small garden, and even a croquet court.

“I have two daughters, one son and three granddaughters, all of them are already on the job. Every winter my wife and I return to Tianjin and live with our daughters and we live in Guangzhou with our son’s family at rest of the time,”

Yu often walks around the campus with his wife and their dog.

“My wife didn’t like to go out. But since we move into the university, she has more outdoor activities. Since we have a little dog, almost every day we go out for a walk together. The grass in front of the library is a good place for walking and enjoying the sunshine. Watching the students go in and out of the library, I am becoming younger.”

Yu’s home is tidy and clean. Walls are draped with pictures of him playing musical instruments and related certificates. He has played saxophone since his school days, and later he studied electronic organ and erhu, a stringed Chinese musical instrument. When he plays saxophone, he’s full of confidence even though he’s 81 years old.

“I have several students in Tianjin,” he said, “some are young people and some are retired old men like me. This year I intend to receive several apprentices in Guangzhou. The atmosphere in a university is more suited to learn something.”


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