A shining example of why the elderly should stay active

The gold-medal success of 93-year-old runner Cheung Suet-ling is testament to the benefits of exercise for older people, and indeed for all of us

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 March, 2017, 1:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 March, 2017, 1:18am

Amid all the angst about our ageing society and the burden on working age people of caring for non-workers, those who live longer and remain healthy through following an active lifestyle set an inspiring example, as do people who challenge their minds with higher education in their later years. It is good therefore, and a source of pride to the city, to be able to cite the example of Cheung Suet-ling, Hong Kong’s first indoor gold medalist in the World Masters Athletics championships, held in South Korea.

Cheung is 93. Because she was the only competitor in her age group, officials put her against two younger women in the under-90 60-metre event, in which she came third in 25.73 seconds. That was good enough for them to award her the gold medal in her age group. She was disappointed in her performance, given that she completed 100 metres in 37.29 seconds last year, blaming back problems leading up to the event. But this did not detract from the admiration she earned from many young runners, who wanted to learn how she could still run at her age. She called for more old runners to “come out of their world and enjoy sports”. Hong Kong Amateur Athletics Association’s senior vice-president, Simon Yeung Sai-mo, said she had done the city proud, showing she was still strong and in good condition by taking part in international competition.

Hong Kong athlete claims ‘sprint’ gold ... at 93 years old

A former nurse, Cheung took up the sport because her daughter is also a runner. Her achievement is testament to health experts’ belief that regular exercise and activity are important to the long-term physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults. For the elderly, being physically active can also stave off a loss of independence and the problem of having to give up the things they enjoy as they age. In fact, health experts say that older adults should be active every day to maintain their health, whether randomly in short spurts or according to a weekly timetable.

This is the third time Cheung has represented her city in a masters event. We trust it will not be the last and that, next time, she is able to compete against contemporaries instead of having to concede up to a decade or more to 80-somethings.