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China Focus: Universities color China's senior citizens' lives
November 01,2017   By:Xinhua
November 1, 2017 -- Sang Meiying, 74, teaches music every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Shizuishan "university" of the elderly in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, regardless of the weather.
 
Every Tuesday and Thursday, she takes classes in calligraphy and painting.
 
"I don't get tired at all!" Sang said. "We are teacher, and students, and we are friends. The college has filled our lives with color."
 
China's elderly population is increasing rapidly. Now with a healthy economy, old people are expecting a better quality of life, and thus these colleges for the elderly were born.
 
In 1983, China's first university of the elderly opened in east China's Shandong Province. Only 30 years later, there are now about 60,000 such schools. Over 7 million people currently study in them, according to the China association university of the elderly.
 
"I tried watching TV, dancing and playing cards after retirement. I didn't find any of that very interesting," Sang said. Sang believes that the more free time you have the more exhausted you become. "The college has made our lives meaningful again," she said.
 
Expansion of demand has far out-stripped the increase in supply. Getting into school is competitive.
 
"We receive far too many applications every year, and the places are very limited," said Wan Nianchun, deputy principal of Hubei Province university of the elderly.
 
Shandong's college started online applications three years ago, said Fu Limin, deputy principal, "People can book a subject with just a few clicks online."
 
The most popular is dance, with all places for the fall semester filled seven minutes after applications opened.
 
The situation is the same in other cities. In Hangzhou, the enrolment rate for the most popular subject is 16:1. In Jiangsu, people queued overnight for a single place. In Guangzhou, all 35 universities are full every year.
 
While the colleges are very popular there is no shortage of complaints.
 
"Some people do not want to graduate"
 
"It's difficult to secure a place, so I have to study from home."
 
"They are too popular..."
 
According to Jinan city government, in 2017, the number of people aged 60 or above reached 1.3 million, 20.5 percent of the population. However, Jinan can only provide college places for 20,000. The gap between demand and supply is huge.
 
"The popularity is not just about improved education for our senior citizens, but also shows a lack of other elder care services," said Gao Liping, deputy director of Shandong Academy of Social Science population research institute.
 
More learning centers for elders have been written into China's development plan with at least one university of the elderly in each county by 2020.
 
"I am hoping the government will continue its support for our universities to let more people enjoy learning there," said Sang.