Longevity stars reveal their secrets

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Wu Zhicheng (left) and Chen Zhongbo, both 107, attend a ceremony in Shanghai. They represented the residents honored as Shanghai's longevity stars on Wednesday. [Photo/Shanghai Daily] 

A 110-year-old woman living in Shanghai's Hongkou District is the oldest resident in a city with more than 2,000 people over the age of 100.

The centenarians put their longevity down to factors which include good food, love and family.

Song Honggen, 108, is the city's oldest man and a resident of Jiading District.

The city also boasts three centenarian couples, with 104-year-old Xu Yunxiang and his wife Zhao Damei, 106, the oldest of them. They live in the Pudong New Area.

The centenarians were honored at a ceremony yesterday as "longevity stars" ahead of Saturday's Chongyang Festival, which falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month and is a day when respects are paid to the country's senior citizens.

Wu Zhicheng and Chen Zhongbo, both 107, attended the ceremony.

Wu, who lives in Jing'an District, has 13 children. She was born in Suzhou, in neighboring Jiangsu Province, and was a worker at a silk factory.

She is skilled at using the computer and is addicted to WeChat, where she founded a family group with 42 members from five generations.

"I talk with them on the WeChat group every day, and I often sing songs for them because I like singing red songs!" she said.

"I remember the birthdays of each child in the group, and I am always the first person to wish them happy birthday via WeChat each time on their birth date," she said.

She watches the news every day and closely followed the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and every foreign visit of President Xi Jinping.

Wu has a number of hobbies including singing, listening to Suzhou pingtan — a traditional narrative originated in Suzhou — and reading Chinese wuxia (martial arts heroes' adventure) novels.

She likes to eat hairy crab and buys a welfare lottery ticket every week. She picks the numbers herself.

"If I win a big prize, I will donate the money to the needy," she said.

"My mother likes eating chicken skin and duck skin, fatty meat and even chicken butt," said Wu's daughter Bian Wenqing, who is 73 years old.

"She is always broad-minded, kind-hearted and mild-tempered, which is believed to be her longevity secret," Bian said.

Wu broke three ribs in 1997, but recovered quickly. In 2004, she broke her nose but also quickly recovered with no ill effects.

Chen Zhongbo, another 107-year-old who was at the ceremony, likes playing mahjong.

He lives in a senior home in Minhang District and worked at a banknote printing factory before retirement.

He is in excellent health and likes walking and watching television.

Chen prefers fatty meat and has a healthy appetite. He can eat eight wonton, an egg and a cup of milk at each meal.

Luo Shimin, Shanghai's oldest resident, lives on Shanyin Road in Hongkou District. She was a proofreader at The Commercial Press.

"My mother likes study very much and wrote poems when she was young," said Huang Gaoqin, Luo's daughter, who is in her 90s.

"She likes reading books and newspapers and is humorous," Huang said, adding that Luo is also very broad-minded. Luo's mother died when she was just 8 years old and was treated poorly by her stepmother, but she was optimistic and always smiled when she talked about the past, Huang said.

Luo gets up at 5am and has a nap after breakfast. She also has a nap after lunch and goes to sleep around 6pm every day.

She eats a vegetarian diet most of the time, and likes congee. She has a foot bath with hot water mixed with vinegar every day.

Before her 105th birthday, Luo would go out to shop and practiced calligraphy. However, she was injured in a fall in 2013 and, a year later, suffered from pneumonia. She fell down again in 2015. But she gradually recovered under the care of her family.

Shanghai had 2,035 centenarians at the end of September.

While the city's residents who reach the 100-year-old milestone may differ in background, many share similarities, according to the Shanghai Gerontological Society.

Most are broad-minded, even-tempered, not fussy about their food, don't smoke, get a good night's sleep and exercise regularly, said Sun Pengbiao, the society's secretary-general. They live in harmonious relations with their families and are well looked after, he said.

Based on interviews with 101 centenarians between 2008 and 2016, the society and Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau found that 68.3 percent said a healthy diet contributed to their longevity while 48.5 percent said a regular bedtime and sleep was their secret.

More than 52 percent said they exercised regularly, with walking, tai chi and housework included.

In addition, 51.7 percent said an affectionate life partner and harmonious and warm family relationship contributed to their long lives, and 48.3 percent mentioned good care from their children as a factor.

In total, 66 of the centenarians said they were broad-minded, kind-hearted and even-tempered, which was a factor, and 10.9 percent said their family had a history of long life.

Shanghai has been honoring its "longevity stars" since 2008. The oldest was a 117-year-old woman who died last year. The oldest man was 113 years old. He died in 2015.

Shanghai had recorded 1,959 centenarians at the end of 2016, a rise of 208 from 2015, of whom 73.7 percent were women, according to the civil affairs bureau. The majority were between 100 and 105.

There were 13.5 centenarians per 100,000 people in Shanghai at the end of 2016 when life expectancy reached 83.18 years, the highest in China and 6.68 higher than the national average.

There was an increase of 1.4 centenarians per 100,000 people at the end of 2016 compared with 2015.

Shanghai is a "city of longevity" as a city can claim that title crown when it has seven centenarians for every 100,000 people, according to the bureau.

Huangpu, Hongkou and Jing'an districts boasted the largest number of centenarians per 100,000 people in the city at the end of 2016 — 21, 19.6 and 19.1 respectively.

The Pudong New Area had 428 centenarians in total, the most in the city, followed by Huangpu and Jing'an districts.

Since 1982, the number of Shanghai's centenarians has kept increasing, and it surpassed 1,000 in 2011.

Between 2000 and 2016, the average annual increase of centenarians in the city was 12.3 percent, the bureau said. The growth rate of male centenarians surpassed women and the percentage of men among all centenarians also grew year on year, it added.

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