The Real Marigold on Tour, BBC’s travel documentary starts with China, specifically in Chengdu.
When you get old, where will you opt to live out your golden years?
The Real Marigold on Tour, BBC's travel documentary which sees four aged stars taking adventures in China, Cuba, Thailand and Iceland to see what growing old is like there, made a massive hit on BBC Broadcast 2 in the end of 2017.
(Picture from The Guardian)
When the cast start exploring what it is like to grow old in China, the four protagonists ― actress Miriam Margolyes, chef Rosemary Schrager, darts champion Bobby George and ex-ballet dancer Wayne Sleep specifically choose Chengdu, which has a great concentration of senior citizens in China.
On the bus into town there is a local lady who is 80, but looks younger, lean and active. "We're fat, that's the problem," explains Miriam Margolyes. Which seems a little unfair on some of the others, certainly on Wayne, who isn't.
Having located the bus and reached their destination, the four protagonists assemble at their guesthouse where they also tried local food. Their host is an elegant Chinese lady named Vicky.
Elsewhere, the group visit a local park where retired types exercise, sing and play games, and venture into the north suburban Chengdu to meet a giant panda that reduces Miriam to a weeping puddle.
In the People's Park, they see older folk enjoyed dance classes, sing-songs, games of Jianzi (kick-the-shuttlecock) and then join the locals playing Jianzi and dancing. While in the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Miriam ― a big fan of pandas it turns out ― is overcome with emotion and bursts into tears. "So beautiful," she sobs at the first sight of one. "I didn't expect it just to be there. You just see it, just like that."
After experiencing city life, the group opt for an overnight stay in a country retreat. A ride on a high-speed bullet train takes them high into the mountains surrounding the city.
Before their time in Chengdu comes to an end, they visit a university for elderly in the southern part of the city, where senior citizens can study for a degree at the age of ranging from 50 to 78. In Chengdu, there are many educational institutions for the elderly providing various classes including martial arts, literature, calligraphy, English, dance, vocal music, painting… Retirees are offered a chance to broaden their minds.
"I think the concept of university for older people is absolutely wonderful. Because you don't stop, (you) want to learn when you are old," said Miriam, "they (the local aged people) are lovely."
Back in Chengdu, a final night at the Sichuan opera and hotpot gives the group an opportunity to reflect on their bewildering and dazzling time in Chengdu.
"People are healthy, happy and enthusiastic ― they do things together, play games, dance and sing." That's the four protagonists' impression of the city.
For many, retirement is a new phase of life, when you can banish all thoughts that have been bothering you at a younger age and just enjoy the rest of your life. But if you have a chance to consider new surroundings, you might as well factor into your options doctor availability, housing, living costs, weather and air quality, and so on.
Besides pandas, abundant tourism resources, diverse food, affordable price including lower medical care costs, mild climate, Chengdu boasts best medical care services in China, particularly compared to other inland cities, with about 20 first-class hospitals and it is listed as one of the most livable cities in China.