Many elderly Chinese are taking up a new hobby-photography

Updated 2019-01-15 12:05:00

Carrying his single-lens reflex camera, tripod and light blocker, Yang Dezhou is ready to capture the "dancing aunties" with their flying silk scarves against a blue sky in East China's Anhui province.

Yang, 71, is among the growing army of silver-haired photography enthusiasts in China.

In 2015, the retiree decided to revive his teenage dream of being a photographer.

According to data gathered from Chinese tech company Alibaba last October, one in 20 senior citizens on its shopping platforms owned a selfie stick. The elderly photographers spent 4,300 yuan (0) per person on cameras in 2017, up 42 percent from the previous year.

"Photography helps me freeze the moments and strengthen my physical fitness. It's also a sort of social activity when I go out with my friends to take pictures," Yang says, adding that the hobby is an excellent way to spend his retirement.

Depending on his pension, Yang has spent almost 60,000 yuan (,770) on his two cameras and three lenses, let alone the costly online courses about photo editing and on photography books.

Yang says photography has dug him into a bottomless hole, but adds that it is worth the price.

"I made lots of friends with the same interest through the photography classes and social media platforms," Yang says, adding that they often go out to take pictures all day long.

"We just enjoy it."

Yang joined three QQ groups and four Wechat groups of the photography classes in a community college for the elderly. There are more than 400 people in a group at most, he says.

Photography-loving senior citizens take a look at award-winning photos of a photography competition exhibited at the Shaanxi Library in October 2015. [PHOTO BY WU KUANHONG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Not too late to learn

Wang Yu, 65, is among those who joined in on the photography craze. Every Wednesday, she takes a photo editing class in a nearby community college in Hefei.

When the pictures get imported into Photoshop, the students first have to press CTRL J to copy the layer.

"Remember, J, like the Jack in poker," Wang recalls her teacher telling her class.

Wang always sits in the front, carefully following the teacher with her notebook full of the important points.

Elderly people may take time to adapt to new technology.

"But we work hard until we grasp it," Wang says.

As Chinese people's living standards improve and senior citizens' consumption increases, photography classes in universities for the elderly and community colleges have grown nationwide in recent years.

China's first university for the elderly in East China's Shandong province attracted over 10,000 senior citizens last spring. Photography was among the top three choices of the applicants.

A university for the elderly in Anhui has set up four photography classes, each with 45 students. Its students range from over 50 years old to more than 80 years old, with an average age of 65.

Retired public servants, enterprise employees and teachers are the most active in class, according to the university.

Click and smile

China had more than 241 million people aged 60 or above by the end of 2017, accounting for 17.3 percent of the total population at the time, according to official statistics.

It is estimated that the country's elderly will occupy about one-quarter of the population by 2030.

But the shutterbugs are showing their enthusiasm in embracing their youthful life-carrying heavy equipment on their trips to take pictures and staying up late to process their work.

"Many senior citizens have changed a lot after taking up photography as a hobby. They told me that they found a way to realize the value of life," Luo Shirong, a salesperson at a photography equipment store in Hefei, capital of Anhui province, says.

In recent years, Luo saw more and more elderly people buy equipment, accounting for nearly 60 percent of the store's sales.

Senior citizens in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong province, were the most active clients of online camera shops, according to Alibaba.

"Many older people followed their offspring by moving to a new city, leaving their old friends and neighbors behind. Loneliness became one of their biggest challenges," says Zhang Zhixian, 72, president of the Shenzhen photography society for the elderly.

"Photography helps them share a common language with others," Zhang says.

Founded in 2006, Zhang's photography association now has more than 1,400 members. Every month, the members take pictures of local senior citizens for free.

"We find joy in photography, and pass it on to others," Zhang adds.

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