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Living well better than living long

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2012-10-24 09:31

Living longer is no longer the point - it is living a healthy, happy long life that is most important. And for China's elderly, it is knowing how to strike the right balance, according to a medical expert.

"High life expectancy doesn't necessarily mean a long, healthy and happy life," says Li Xiaogang, deputy director of the Neurology Department of Peking University No 3 Hospital.

"The abundance of medical resources is a prime contributor to longevity, but a healthy lifestyle and emotional well-being are also very important."

China is now better off economically. But, as the population ages, the proliferation of chronic diseases among elderly patients has become a big social burden. The more hectic lifestyle of today also takes its toll among the elderly, Li adds.

In contemporary China, where the young are always busy at work away from home, old people often live alone. They fall prey to empty-nest syndrome, which often manifests as depression, grief and loneliness.

Playing mahjong or practicing Chinese calligraphy can keep brains active and limbs limber, but even these are not without risks, if the old overdo it. These may cause problems in bones and blood vessels - and sometimes even lead to stroke, Li says.

"For the old, it is important to keep an open mind and live life to its fullest," says Pang Yu, a psychologist and deputy director at the Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, a leading mental institution in the capital.

Pang says studies show people who live longer share many common personality traits - they are generally at peace with themselves, friendly to others and open-minded.

Many who Pang knows do charity, even though they are already in their 80s and 90s.

One of Pang's teachers is older than 80 and loves playing mahjong and always wins. But he also takes part in many other activities, such as mountain-climbing and traveling.

"In a word, he loves life," Pang says. "An elderly person should do something he likes to keep himself occupied. So, he will not feel empty. But he should also not overdo it."

In other words, again, moderation is key.

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