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Age of insight

By Wang Qian | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-22 08:09

Video creator Chen Zhuo (left) discusses a scene with Yu.CHINA DAILY

A video channel featuring residents of an elderly care home in Tianjin appeals to younger audiences, especially with lighthearted takes on heavy topics, Wang Qian reports.

Over time, many elderly residents of a care home in North China's Tianjin succumbed to a sense of malaise — that is, until they met 29-year-old Chen Zhuo.

The residents, who range in age from their 60s to their 90s, had fallen into repetitive, monotonous and quiet routines.

But Chen's arrival shook them out of their funk and propelled them on adventures of self-discovery.

They've since gone on to share their inspiration and knowledge with people, receiving millions of views on Douyin, a short-video platform otherwise typically inhabited by young digital natives. In turn, this has undone many stereotypes about aging in the public mind.

"These short videos help the elderly escape the tedious routines of the care home," says Chen, who is director, scriptwriter and cameraman.

"This makes them feel needed, valued and useful, and keeps them connected. What's more, they have started embracing the future with hope. At the same time, the videos are a mirror that reflects the struggles and challenges most people face today. This resonates with viewers."

Chen says he believes this is why their account has racked up more than 700,000 followers since they posted their first video in April of last year. He has consequently been able to develop a potential career creating social media content about elderly care facilities while encouraging more young people to care about the older generation.

A Douyin user with the user-name "Spyz" comments: "This is the care home that I want to go to for my later years." Another who goes by "Amy" says: "These videos always lift me up when I feel down."

The videos are made with creativity and unexpected wit. For instance, the residents don middle school uniforms and talk humorously about issues faced by youth, including anxiety and bullying.

The series features 90-year-old teacher Yu Fangyou and three silver-haired pupils — the talkative 80-year-old Chen Weizhen, who's better known online as "Carl" for his similarity to the protagonist of the 2009 Pixar movie, Up; 73-year-old Geng Fengru, who is called "Alice" in the videos; and 62-year-old Wang Li, who is also known as "Bob".

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