Illustration: Lu Ting/GT
I am always delighted when my elderly parents send me messages or photos on WeChat. Like most social-media-using Chinese adults, I'm relieved to know that I can now more conveniently stay in touch with my family thanks to the advent of smartphones.
Nonetheless, I must say that I'm often annoyed by the numerous "health preservation" news they always share. It seems that China's ever-growing population of seniors have migrated from community parks to WeChat for all their gossip needs. When they start spamming my moments literally every day with a new "must try" tip or medicinal root, it can get overwhelming.
"You should never cook X-food and Y-food together!" or "You are killing yourself by eating fruit after supper" or "10 foods that will keep cancer away" are just some of the unsubstantiated or outright false health tips that old folks love to spread on social media. Occasionally some of these tips deserve consideration; most are simply absurd.
One recent tip that my mother got hooked on - and then tried to force on me - is to eat an entire garlic bulb every day. She read it on one of her friends' WeChat posts and then, without any further research, started doing it. Even when she caught a cold, she refused to take medicine, opting to devour garlic.
She recovered from her cold (as any healthy person does), but attributed her recovery entirely to the miracles of garlic. Now whenever I sniffle she tries to shove garlic down my throat. I don't even like garlic in my meals, so the idea of eating a whole raw bulb is ridiculous!
I recall a time when most of my extended relatives used to criticize the elderly in our family for being too old-fashioned or for naively falling for quackery targeted at seniors. But now that these same uncles and aunts are getting older, they are also all splurging on longevity foods and rejuvenation drinks that might keep them on this earth longer.
When we as humans are young and strong, we seldom think about our future. Living in the moment seems to be the way of life for young adults, feasting and drinking and smoking to our heart's content. Life seems so boundless when we are consumed by raising a family or pursuing a profession. But once a person retires and relinquishes their societal status as a productive citizen, it suddenly hits them that they don't have much time left.
It's at that point that they begin over-compensating for the physical toll that the past 40 years of living took on their bodies and minds. This isn't a new phenomenon.
Longevity has always been highly treasured in China. During the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shi Huang sent Taoist priest Xu Fu with 500 young men and 500 young women to the eastern seas to find an elixir that would give him immortality. Not to mention that China has literally driven tigers to extinction because it was once believed that their paws and bones made us stronger.
It's not just a Chinese thing either. To date there are numerous Western well-funded science research facilities specifically trying to find the secret to longevity. "We're the first to provide evidence for the existence of genetic mechanisms that limit lifespan," a biology professor at Concordia University Faculty of Arts and Science announced in a January 2017 press release.
Never mind that we seem to have already found the secret. The average lifespan in the 20th century was only 47 years; today the average global lifespan is 79. Based on the most current data, researchers believe that the absolute limit of human life will cap at 125 years.
I'm trying my best to sympathize with my elderly parents and relatives. Instead of criticizing them for being so gullible and wasting all their money on silly concoctions, I will dedicate myself to helping them distinguish scientifically verified health tips from quackery. I'd also like to try distracting them from their preoccupation with longevity by organizing more outdoor activities and hobbies, which truly are much more effective in keeping old folks happy and healthy than any root or endangered animal part can.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.