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Web Exclusive: Women of Hong Kong outliving us all

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As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, it's hard to imagine how Hong Kong with its high intensity, stress and pollution could possibly add years to your life.

But it just so happens that its female residents have not only learned, but mastered the secret to aging.

At one of the city's elderly community centers, 89 year old Lee Wai Fong defies age and gravity at a daily dance class. "From exercise and a healthy body," she says.  "It should be this way".

Mrs. Lee is not the exception, but the rule. A study by the Japanese government has found women in Hong Kong live the longest in the world with an average life expectancy of 86.7 years, overtaking japan which held the title for 25 years.

"That is good news for Hong Kong people! I think my observation is that female members are quite active," Daisy Li, YWCA Supervisor.  "I think this is an important factor."

Lee Suk Ching is testament to that.  At 101, she walks with a cane unaided, reads the newspaper with a magnifying glass and visits the center each day to catch up with friends and share a meal. "I'm healthy because I exercise", she explains.  "it makes me happy!"

Dr. Bernard Kong, President of the Hong Kong Geriatric Society, is not surprised by the results, citing a good public health system that looks after its senior citizens. "For the last few decades we have very good scientific and medical advances in Hong Kong and also we are keeping our tradition as basic Chinese culture."

But, Hong Kong men lag behind their women, with a life expectancy of 80 and this gap doesn't look like it will change anytime soon.  "We depend on people who look after us, women! They are the ones who take care of us and when they disappear our chances of mortality are much higher," says Dr. Kong.

Most of these women have outlived their husbands and for 94-year-old Yeung Wai Hing, the past is painful.  She lived through war and has loved and lost more times than she'd care to remember, but her positive attitude has gotten her through it.  "I live happy no matter what" she says.  "You will live each day, why not be happy?"

Whether it be diet, genetics or medical advances health professionals agree that one key factor that sets Hong Kong's elderly apart is the importance of family within the Chinese culture.

An overwhelming majority live with their children or grandchildren, with only around 10% living on their own.

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