Senior-friendly places in China?
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Sep 9, 2012 11:29 PM Last Post By: thelocaldialect
Sep 8, 2012 5:24 AM
Senior-friendly places in China?Hey everybody,
I'm currently living in China. My dad is planning a visit sometime over the winter. He doesn't really know a whole lot about China, so he can't exactly tell me what he wants to do. He's pretty flexible about what he'd like to see and where he'd like to go.
There's just one thing: being an older guy (upper 60s), he can't get around as well as he used to. He has a slight mobility issue caused by a childhood illness. He can walk just fine, but he can't walk extremely long distances and he has a hard time climbing stairs. Most places in China have pretty good taxi/tuk tuk transportation systems, so I think we can work around the long distance issue pretty well. I'm just worried about stairs because it seems as though almost everywhere you go in China has stairs ad infinitum.
Do you have any ideas about where I can take him that will be friendly towards his level of mobility? Ideas I had: Beijing (relatively flat, lots of sights, good taxi system), Suzhou (flat, good pedicab system). I kind of think he would enjoy somewhere like San Ya, but I haven't been and I don't know what it's like.
P.S. I think he would be open to other countries in Asia (or Taiwan/Hong Kong).
Sep 8, 2012 8:39 AM
1My parents, who are in their mid-60s, live with me in Beijing and they also have some mobility issues (mom has pretty bad arthritis in her hips, dad has a bum knee). They manage just fine here day to day and when they first moved out here we visited a lot of the sights and had no major issues. Most of the tourist spots in BJ, like the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace(s) don't really require a lot of climbing. There's a chairlift at the Badaling Great Wall so he wouldn't even have to skip that. The weather will be a drawback though, as Beijing is really quite cold in the winter, windy too. It isn't the best season to be out and about sightseeing unless you're really not bothered by the cold.
Sanya is pretty much a Chinese resort town. It is a nice place to visit in the winter if you want to go someplace warm with beaches but don't want to leave the country. Winter is high season so it is very expensive and lots of hotels double or triple their rates around Chinese New Year.
About five years ago (so before they actually moved to China) my folks visited me in Yunnan, where I was living at the time, and I took them to Jinghong. They really enjoyed that trip and still talk about it to this day. Jinghong has good weather in the winter and doesn't have to involve a lot of climbing or hiking. When I took my folks we found a guy to take us around in his car for a day trip, visiting a lot of villages and such. Lots of people do trekking in the area but of course my mom and dad weren't really up for that but they still really enjoyed the local culture and the tropical climate.
My parents also went to Thailand last Christmas and absolutely loved it. Maybe that would be a good option? Thailand is pretty affordable and accessible from China.
Sep 8, 2012 10:06 AM
2I was going to suggest Thailand, exotic, warm, great food, lots of culture, islands to temples, and great medical access should they need it.
Sep 8, 2012 12:21 PM
3i must say that i was also impressed by the number and frequency of stairs in china! i have some mobility issues - a bum ankle - and travelled successfully in china for months and months. walking/hiking sticks can be a big help, and a lot of places on top of mountains do have chair lifts, which i have come to love! if your dad wants to travel in china, why not? you will have to move more slowly than you are perhaps used to, and perhaps use more cabs instead of walking back and forth across towns, but i think it's doable. only a few times did i have to sit out what my more mobile companion was doing, and i always had something interesting to observe in the meantime!
Sep 8, 2012 5:11 PM
Sep 8, 2012 5:14 PM
5Seen plenty of elderly in places like Dali, Lijiang and even Zhongdian. After travelling last trip with 2 brother in laws mid to mid+ sixties, its so much easier if they are fully mobile. Meant I didnt always have to climb up to the top bunk in sleeper buses. When it was just my son and husband, it was always me who drew the short straw.
Sep 8, 2012 7:26 PM
6Unfortuantely stairs are going to be an issue for him just about wherever you travel in China. While Bejing is the best place (in my opinion) to visit on a first trip to China, you will be faced with a fair amount of stairs at several of the popular sites - the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven come to mind, and as pointed out above, a problem when using the subways. He could as also said above visit the Great Wall and in addition to Badaling section, there is also an aerial tram to the top at the usually less crowded Mutianyu section too and then the two of you can toboggan back down.
Suzhou and the water towns in the area might also be good. I don't remember there being many stairs around the gardens and sites in Suzhou and not many in the water town I visited, but walking distances could be an issue. The weather in winter should be better around there than in Beijing.
Another option might be to visit the Guilin/Yangshuo area. Obviously the rice terrances and the climb up to Ping'an would be out of the question, but maybe a couple days in Guilin to visit the Reed Flute Cave, take the day or night cruise on the Guilin Water System through the lakes and canels of the city, then either take a bus or a Li River cruise boat down to Yangshuo for a few more days where you can take him on a bamboo raft down the Yulong River, go see a performance of the Impression Sanjie Liu light and sound show, and visit other villages in the area. It can still get cold in this area in the winter, but not like Beijing.
Sanya is a good candidate too and pretty flat. There are some nice parks to visit both along the beach and inland so you can keep busy there for several days and the weather should be much warmer than other areas of China. It was very nice when I visited in February three years ago.
Sep 8, 2012 10:45 PM
Sep 8, 2012 11:48 PM
Sep 9, 2012 12:39 AM
Sep 9, 2012 3:32 AM
10Thanks for all of the helpful replies, everybody. Badaling is a good idea--I'll check that out. I think Dali sounds right up his alley, too.
Baifeng and westwood--I'll definitely let his doctor know that you may have broken his case wide open. I'm just kidding, of course. Yes, the main thrust of the discussion is the mobility issue, which I thought I made clear above. He doesn't need bingo night at the hotel or adult diapers, but his illness is primarily related to his age. I mentioned age for a few reasons. First, for background reasons: we are not talking about a child or adolescent. Second, seniors were mentioned because it is fairly common for people who are nearly 70 to develop some sort of mobility issues, so some people may have had similar issues when they or their parents traveled to China. Last, I mentioned age for both background information for the off-chance that somebody else has had a similar experience. I didn't mention age for a discussion of semantics and logical bounds and leaps appropriate only for much younger individuals.
Edited by: HenanJYXY
Sep 9, 2012 6:13 AM
11#8, I've actually seen the wheelchair lifts in the Beijing subways in use several times over the past month or so. The first time I definitely noticed because there was a band of people -- newly arrived from the countryside I imagine -- gawking at the poor guy going up the lift.
A lot of the subways do have escalators. Not every single one, but the main stops or stops with a particularly tall staircases tend to.
Of course if you're not short on cash or in a big hurry you can avoid the subways for the most part and take taxis around the city.
Sep 9, 2012 9:13 AM
12#12: Glad to hear that they are progressing…Have you noticed, are the lifts operated by attendant or DIY? If it is the latter then the fridge and washing machine movers would love it too… Just kidding, I hope?
op: As a senior myself (China standard), would like to suggest considerations of resting benches and washroom facilities when approaching an attraction site.
Sep 9, 2012 8:34 PM
13I would not necessarily rule out any part of China for this trip, although I would curtail mountain walking, hiking, and stair-climbing experiences and be very careful about planning such locations that don't have cable-car support. That said, with older people, much is still possible, but pacing of the days becomes an issue. Best to plan a daily schedule that may be what you consider "light" such as one major site in the morning and one in the afternoon. Only one thing per day that has steps or long walking. Use taxis or private car/driver between sites rather than deal with subway transport. City buses are often easier for seniors to get in/out of than dealing with subways.
Don't worry about under-scheduling. If Dad is up to it, he'll let you know and you can always add stuff to the days. Leave time for rests, snacks, coffee/tea breaks etc. And traveling intercity, unpacking and repacking, gets tiring, so try to avoid cities with "one night stand" stops. Sometimes more time in fewer places works better.
I am in my 50's now, hardly decrepit, but my knees only have a certain quota of stairs in them per day. And my cardio system has issues. Accordingly, I pace myself differently than my first trip to China when I was in my 20's. And always get a decent and comfortable place (not necessarily expensive) to sleep and wash in and have some privacy at night. I do not feel that aging has affected my ability to enjoy a China trip, even in out-of-the-way places. Sometimes slowing down a bit, you actually see and observe more. Funny how that works. ;-)
Sep 9, 2012 11:29 PM
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