"If skiing is like opium in white, then paragliding is like opium in blue. You get addicted once you try it."
So says 70-year-old Li Jiaxin, known for her decades of paragliding experience, which won her the title of "the flying granny."
She jokes that she has never rested since her retirement at 55. She liked winter swimming, mountain climbing and all the common sports of Chinese retirees – until one day she saw someone paragliding.
She spent 10 months learning to fly solo and does regular core power training. It was no easy task for someone her age and, with a modest retirement payment of 2,400 yuan per month ($540), Li has spent nearly all her savings on her new hobby.
"People always say it's never too old to learn. It's learning new things that makes you live longer. It gives your life purpose and freshens your life," she says.
She is not the only grey-haired player in this niche sport. Inspired by Li, many more seniors are taking the jump to fly by paraglider. At the end of 2018, the number of licensed paragliders in China topped 10,000. About 20 per cent are aged 50-60 and more than half are between 30-50 years old, Qianjiang Evening News reported, citing data from multiple paragliding bases.
And some partake of paragliding even though they need a pacemaker.
Huang Ruixiang, 69, is the oldest licensed paragliding player in Wenzhou, eastern China's Zhejiang province, home to one of the two professional paragliding bases in the province. He first started paragliding at 56 and has since soared in the skies of multiple regions in China.
However, Huang began to wear a pacemaker last April due to heart disease. Yet that did not stop him – he started paragliding again only three months after his surgery.
Paragliding is gradually coming to more people's attention in China, with both the young and elderly trying their hand at the adventurous sport.
However, elderly people tend to aim higher in this sport than younger people, according to one expert.
"It takes about 50,000 yuan ($11,200) to buy the equipment and undergo the training before one can fly solo," says Li Chennan, head of a paragliding base at Fuyang Yongan Mountain Paragliding Base. "Senior citizens, with more money and time to spare, find it easier to stick it out,"
Content sourced from the People's Daily Online here