Age is just a number – what makes one actually age is the ageing mentality. Chan Shu-pun and Chan Lai-cheung, Paul, elderly instructors of The Salvation Army Senior Citizens Talent Advancement Project, are never doddery nor clumsy. In fact, they are both skilled craftsmen with sharp eyes and swift hands, and now they are giving classes to pass on their skills, leading a fulfilling life in retirement.

Passing on the experiences and skills

Many children in Hong Kong are living in abundance with toys readily available for them. However, Shu-pun enjoys teaching children to make their own toys using waste materials such as plastic bottles, cardboards or even twigs randomly picked from the street. Engaged in product design before retirement, Shu-pun is particularly sensitive to the structure of different objects. His skillful hands can turn plastic bottle caps into eco-friendly and creative toys such as flowers, angels, teddy bears, or even toy dragons with moveable ‘joints’!

Shu-pun frequently organises classes with The Salvation Army and other organisations, teaching children how to make eco-friendly DIY toys. In these classes, there is great chemistry between his positive and proactive attitude and the children’s liveliness and the sense of satisfaction children show when they complete their toys becomes Shu-pun’s source of motivation. ‘DIY toys can nurture a person’s artistic sense. Children are indeed so creative that sometimes I’m in turn inspired by their creativity!’ said Shu-bun with a smile. After retirement, he no longer works in full force but instead he put his experience and talent to use in a different way that keeps him busy yet happy and satisfied. ‘Exercising your creativity and thinking help train your brain and keep you young!’ he said.

Inheritance of handicraft

Always wearing a joyful smile, Paul is the only paper master that makes Big-headed Buddha face masks in town. He literally grew up with the Big-headed Buddha as he started learning how to make these face masks from his father since he was small. After graduating from the university, Paul did not use this skill to earn a living, but pursued a career as a physical education teacher instead. However, he rediscovered his passion for paper craft after retirement. During the days after he migrated to the USA and opened a restaurant there, Paul taught Buddha face mask making to the westerners as a gimmick for his restaurant. When he returned to Hong Kong in 2010, he found Old Hong Kong nostalgia became trendy, and under some favourable circumstances, Lai-cheung had the opportunity to get into school campuses teaching secondary school students to make the Big-headed Buddha masks. Later, Lai-cheung began to further spread this traditional handicraft skill through collaboration with The Salvation Army and other organisations.

The smiles of joy and satisfaction that light up students’ faces every time they complete their works motivate Paul to devote in teaching after his retirement. He always encourages other elder buddies to make good use of their time in retirement and join different courses to discover their interests, or even share their experiences gained over the years which can be beneficial and fun for themselves and the learners. ‘I learnt this craft skill when I was small, and worked as a teacher when I was young. I never thought now I can give my talents full play by combining these two skills together. It makes my life in retirement extraordinary and fulfilling,’ said Paul.