As advised by locals, Burwood Park was a hub for Chinese elderly, especially within the early hours of the morning. After arriving at 7:30am, I noticed the park was enlivened with a medley of exercise and dance routines scattered around the area. For me, it became apparent that these routines occurred in set locations daily, transforming the Park into a communal centre for Chinese leisure and activity. I drew a map of the area, outlining the different exercise routines that took place at the time. There was Chinese square dancing, fan dancing, an elderly couple playing badminton, and several fast-paced dances. Tai Chi, however, was most common and occurred in pockets around the area.
I noticed that the way each person experiences exercise is different: some in groups, some with leaders, and others by themselves. Nevertheless, each exercise group appears to be very absorbed and focused in their activity and environment. The way that they interact with each other, as well as with me, was always very jovial and carefree. After asking the Sifu if I could photograph them, he jokingly said, “But we’re old, we’re not that attractive!”
I spoke to Sifu regarding his Tai Chi practice. Despite experiencing a language barrier, he was extremely open to answering my questions. He discusses how Tai Chi helped him overcome previous health problems, and emphasises the importance of outdoor air for his health.
Similarly, my interviewee and grandfather holds a similar view towards physical exercise. As delineated in the Quality of Life (QOL) Profile, the three realms of Being, Belonging and Becoming significantly shape the way Deliang experiences his health and wellbeing.
As discussed in blog-post A, family is of utmost importance within Chinese culture and for Deliang, his health and wellbeing centralises around this value. He discusses how his sense of belonging follows where his family goes, and how the joy he experiences fuels his happiness and being. His notion of ‘giving’, such as cooking for his family gives him a role which, in turn, fortifies a sense of belonging. It becomes interesting to see the importance of a family milieu in fostering a sense of positivity and wellbeing, especially at an old age. I found that the ‘home’ was crucial in merging the three QOL realms together, and maintaining a strong sense of fulfilment for who and where they are now. This view also aligns with P. Moore’s reading. When the balance of people, products and places are appropriate in meeting our daily living needs, “we have a quality lifestyle” (Moore & Lee 2015, p. 27).
Additionally, Deliang also plays golf three times a week. He says, “playing golf makes me very happy and relaxed. It’s not about winning or losing for me, it’s about me enjoying the game”. He emphasises the importance of exercise for the elderly. He continues, “I have diabetes and I need to breathe fresh air and have sunshine. My feet always need to be walking and moving, to keep my heart healthy”.
Both the Sifu and Deliang’s devotion towards physical fitness astounds me. It becomes interesting to see how exercise can transform the way one thinks and feels about life and themselves. Its potence not only becomes a pillar towards healthy ageing, but also a measure of happiness and fulfilment.
Please note: Permission was asked prior to filming the Sifu.
Moore, P. & Lee, Y. 2015, Ageing, ingenuity & design, DESIS Network, Hong Kong.