• Society
Seasonal Senior Migrants
Text by Zhang Xue


Even in winter, Sanya enjoys a gentle breeze from the sea which, along with its swaying coconut trees, attracts tens of thousands of elderly “migrant birds” from afar. They come to escape the chilly, frozen winter in the north and spend their twilight days bathing in the warm sunlight.  CFP Practicing Taichi at the beach early in the morning.  CFP

Tropical Sanya in Hainan Province maintains weather as pleasant as spring even in the dead of winter. It is known for sunlight, sandy beaches and coconut trees swaying in the breeze. Every winter, the city, situated at the southernmost tip of Hainan Island, attracts streams of holiday makers from all regions of the country: Some stay for months and don’t return home until spring is drawing near.

Such resident-visitors are referred to as “holiday migrants,” most of whom are retirees.

Endless Spring

At 6:30 a.m., Wang Fengsheng, wearing a short-sleeved shirt, strolls across the bridge over the Linchun River to begin his morning exercise in Egret Park. At 65, Wang has spent three winters in a row in Sanya. While he enjoys the pleasant morning in the park, his hometown 4,000 kilometers away in northeastern China is frozen solid at minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Many northeasterners who once only dreamt of living on the seashore now enjoy it every winter.

Egret Park, in the old district of Sanya, is one of the most popular gathering places for the “migrant elderly.” As night falls, they dance yangge (a folk dance popular in northern China) in the small square on Linchun Road on the other side of the park. Most of the dancers hail from the northeast.

Ms. Yang, a native of Jiamusi, Heilongjiang Province, has spent five winters there. “I’ve been suffering from tracheitis,” she explains. “I coughed a lot during the bitter northeastern winters and spent a lot of money seeing doctors. The cough never happens when I am here.”

The “migrant birds” phenomenon has enhanced the local economy tremendously. Vehicles with plates from all over the country can be found almost everywhere in Sanya. Some drug stores advertise that they accept health insurance from Heilongjiang Province.

Statistics from the Aging Office of the Hainan Provincial Government show that during the peak season in winter, some 450,000 migrant seniors rush to the province to relax, preserve their health and spend their retirement in the warm environment.



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