When you think of people living long, healthy lives, the first place you think of won’t exactly be smog-filled, overcrowded and cramped Hong Kong. However, according to the most recent census of the Chinese territory, Hong Kongers are now the people who live the longest in the world.
Hong Kong senior citizens themselves are quite happy to share what they say are the secrets to a happy, healthy long life: tea, playing mah-jong (a complex game of marked tiles similar to dominoes but with a much more complicated scoring system and strategy), and work.
According to 80-year-old Mak Yin, grandmother of six, her daily Yum cha, which is endless cups of tea served with steamed dim-sum snacks, along with keeping busy , is what keeps her looking as young as her friends, who are all in their 60’s. “I love travelling, I like to see new things and I meet my friends for ‘yum cha’ every day,” she said. The tea, it must be noted, is full of anti-oxidants which are credited with slowing down the aging process.
While many seniors participate in group sessions of Tai Chi, a slow-motion martial art that keeps joints flexible, muscles strong and balance perfected, what the seniors say gives them a long life is work. Hong Kong Association of Gerontology president Edward Leung states: “Many old people in our city remain working, that contributes to better psychological and mental health.”
“For older people, a lot of them are stressed because they have nothing to do and they develop ’emptiness syndrome’. This causes mental stress.”
Finally, the traditional game of mah-jong, ubiquitous in the city, is said to keep aging minds sharp and spirits up as it is a very social game requiring four players and is dependent on a large amount of player interaction. According to expert Alfred Chan, of Lingnan University, “It stimulates the parts that control memory and cognitive abilities. It helps old people with their retention of memory.” Mah-jong keeps seniors happy and most importantly, it delays the onset of dementia.