Sai Kung elders’ secrets to living a long life

We talk to Sai Kung seniors and a local centenarian to find out their secrets to living a long and healthy life

  Leung Kam-sze  

How old are you?
82

What’s your morning routine?
I wake up, use the toilet, brush my teeth and have a warm cup of water. The warm temperature of the water is important as drinking cold water first thing after waking up is bad for your stomach.

What food do you avoid?
We try not to eat fried food when dining out. The oil tends to become dirty after a few times of frying.

 

What do you think is the most important factor which affects your health?
Diet is really important to maintaining healthy as you grow older. Everything in moderation is best. Have a little bit of fruit, a little bit of fish, some vegetables and occasionally some meat. Just don’t be a picky eater.

Do you take Western of Chinese medicine?
I take both Western and Chinese medicine. I also have acupuncture done when I have ear pain, I have found this most effective for this particular problem.

Did you drink much alcohol or smoke when you were younger?
No, I’ve never smoked and I’ve only had a sip of alcohol.

Did you grow up doing exercise?
I swam a lot when I was younger but this was due to working in the fishing industry. I would also pick wild fruits and vegetables from the hillsides which was also tiring work.

Have you lived a happy life so far?
Despite living a tough life and experiencing World War II when I was only a child, it was a relatively stress-free life. I believe I lived a happy life. I’m happiest when family come over to visit and have a meal together.

You have a full set of hair, do you take any special care of your hair?
When we were younger we didn’t use shampoo. Instead we would pick leaves off of wild trees and rub them in water to make our own homemade shampoo.

  Lai Cheung Mui  

Four generations of the Lai family

How old are you?
103.

Do you think living in Sai Kung has improved your health?
When we moved away out of Sai Kung I never felt as happy or comfortable. It was only when I finally moved back that I felt at home again.

Do you feel happy now?
Yes I am very happy now. I am happiest when people come to visit and give me massages. Massages help me sleep better at night.

What does your diet look like?
I have three meals a day and I eat anything I’m given, there’s nothing I don’t eat. A little bit of everything is good for you. But my favourite food is chicken wings cooked using vinegar and sugar. Many of my other favourite foods are sour too. I also like to mix red tea or vinegar soaked plums into my bowl of rice.

What do you like to drink?
Any chinese tea is good. I also like sweet beancurd soup. I’m not a fan of fizzy drinks though.

Did you drink alcohol and smoke?
I drank port wine and started smoking when I was in my teens. I really liked smoking but I eventually gave it up because it was expensive and my mother-in-law didn’t like it. I stopped drinking a while back too.

What do you do on a normal day?
I listen to Chinese opera on the radio but it needs to be really loud because my hearing isn’t as good as it once was.

Do you like playing Mahjong?
Yes I like playing Mahjong but I always lose.

Do you have any health tips you want to share?
There’s no secret, if you live long then you live long.

  Sau Kung Lau  

How old are you?
80

What do you do in your free time?
I’ve been helping out at the elderly home for over 10 years now. I also dance and sing during my free time which makes me happy. Keeping myself busy and happy is what helps me maintain my health.

What time do you typically wake up and go to sleep?
I usually get around 3 hours of sleep a day. I find it difficult to sleep so I get in bed around midnight and wake up around 3-4am.

 

Do you think you have lived a happy life?
I’ve lived a very simple life. I worked on a farm and as long as I had enough money to have some food and a roof over my head I was happy. So yes, I would say I lived and still live a happy life.

Do you have any tips for younger generations to stay healthy?
Stay happy. Go out and meet some friends to laugh about some jokes. Too many people stress over money now, you can never earn “enough”.

Do you think living in Sai Kung has improved your health?
For sure, it’s because we’re close to the sea. We can walk along the waterfront and take in some fresh air. But don’t go where there are too many sampans and boats, they produce a lot of pollution.

  Yau Tai Sing  

How old are you?
80

Why do you think Hong Kong people have the longest life expectancy?
In other countries like England, people eat until they’re full and just sit around. We in Hong Kong have many activities throughout the day, such as doing exercises by the waterfront and grocery shopping in the market.

Do you think you lived a hard life?
I had a very difficult life growing up. We worked on a farm in Sai Kung and it was a lot of manual labour.

What does your morning routine look like?
After getting ready, I have a warm cup of water and do some light stretches to start the day. Next I head over to the waterfront to do some exercises with a group of friends. After that I have dim sum for breakfast.

Did you smoke or drink alcohol?
No I’ve never smoked or drank alcohol. My parents didn’t so why would I?

  Ho Sing-tai  

How old are you?
81

Did you play any sports or do any exercise when you were younger?
I was a boat dweller and spent most of my time on the boat. We were very poor and worked all day long so we never had time to play sports. My exercise came from pulling the fishnets and swimming in the sea.

Do you do exercise now that you’re older?
I have a morning routine of stretches and exercises. I do each move about 20 times.

 

What do you do with your free time?
Watch TV, play Mahjong on my phone and listen to Chinese opera on YouTube.

Is there anything you don’t eat?
I haven’t eaten beef for over 50 years.

Do you take Western or Chinese medicine?
I typically take Western medicine but when I get the flu I head down to the Chinese medicine shop and pick out some Climbing Groundsel Herb. I boil this medicinal herb and bathe myself with the water before I go to bed.

Did you drink much alcohol or smoke when you were younger?
I used to enjoy drinking a lot of beer. But as I got older, I started feeling drunk from just a few sips so I stopped. I also smoked 10 to 20 cigarettes a day for over 20 years. I gave up at 50 years old because my wife couldn’t handle the smell anymore.

What do you think is the most important factor which affects your health?
I think people today worry too much. I lived a very tough life growing up but I never felt too stressed – as long as I had food on the table I was happy. Diet is also important, people should eat plenty of fish.

Are you religious?
We don’t believe in any one religion but we would pray to Tin Hau. There was this one time I fell very ill. Back then my wife and I prayed to Tin Hau for me to get better and that if I did we would give up eating beef. I did and we gave up beef.

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