China tour connects seniors

Next October, a second group of Canadians will travel to China for the Seniors’ China Tour. This travel opportunity combines visits to historic Chinese sites with classes at a special seniors university. The itinerary also includes the Beijing Opera, ancient temples and palaces, a calligraphy class and a Tai Chi exercise session with Chinese seniors. 
The tour began two years ago as a part of the United Nations International Year of Older Persons. Chinese seniors approached the Canadian government and Chinese-Canadian tour leader Tony Pau with a request to meet North American seniors. The subsidized tour costs $1,100 plus transportation.

“This is the only tour where North American citizens can come to China and really get a sense of the Chinese way of life,” says Pau.

Visit Chinese seniors
A 10-day tour starts in Beijing where visitors participate in classes at China’s University of Senior Citizens. The classes will provide an introduction to Chinese calligraphy, brush painting, and traditional music. 

From Beijing, tourists travel to the city of BaoDing, where the inhabitants live 4.6 years longer than seniors inhe rest of the country. Tourists will take a morning Tai Chi exercise class and visit a Chinese senior’s home to help prepare a meal. All this helps give visitors a sense of day-to-day living for Chinese seniors.

Traveller’s reaction
Eve Gardner, from Edmonton, was one of the 11 tourists who went on the first Canadian tour. She writes about her adventures in the reference section of the tour site:

“This was definitely a working holiday. We were up by 6:00 am and finished each day about 9:30 pm. We stayed in good hotels, ate the very best food (western breakfasts and Chinese the rest of the time) and we were shown as much of Beijing, Baoding, and Shi Jia Zhuang as we could possibly see in the time we had,” she says.

“We were there because China is in desperate need of help for its problems and it needs the world to know this. Millions of people live in the type of windowless brick house that Pearl Buck wrote about in the ’20s. Of course, at least in the cities, there is more equality of the sexes and people on the streets are generally very well and fashionably dressed,” she says.

Good fortune
“I’m still rather bemused by our good luck in being part of this tour. We were certainly not a chosen group nor are we people of influence anywhere. All that was asked in return is that we spread the word that China is open – for business, for tourism, and for friendship. China is very real to me now whereas formerly I think it seemed a sort of mythical place. Also, I now understand why many of the people of Hong Kong were happy to be reunited with the mainland,” says Gardner.

Like the first trip, the October tour is subsidized by the Chinese government. All proceeds go the China Children Hearing Aid Foundation. The Seniors’ China Tour provides about 170 hearing aids to hearing-impaired children each year. Seniors’ tours also depart from Britain and Australia.

With files by Marilyn Smith.