Amid flashing cameras and exclamations of "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd, Yang Wan-neng (
The 84-year-old yoga master, along with nine other strapping senior citizens specializing in a variety of sports, wowed ministry officials with their physical prowess at a press conference promoting exercise for the elderly.
According to the ministry, the combined age of the 10 silver-haired athletes was 723 years old.
But no one could guess that by looking at them: they looked -- and moved -- like people half their age.
"These healthy seniors are excellent examples of what healthy lifestyle is all about," said Tseng Chung-ming (曾中明), director of the ministry's Department of Social Affairs, which hosted the conference.
"A healthy society is a happy society," he added.
So why is the ministry going out of its way to promote healthy living, especially among the elderly?
Ann Lang (郎祖筠), the emcee of yesterday's event, said that aside from working to improve the quality of life, the ministry was preparing the country for dealing with the challenges of caring for its growing aging population.
"Eight percent of our total population is aged 65 or older, and this segment is growing at a rate 2.5 times faster than Japan's aging population," Lang said.
Lang added that the country currently lacked the necessary resources to deal with such a large and expanding demographic.
"With average incomes as low as they are, Taiwan's younger generations are having a hard time taking care of their elders," Lang told the Taipei Times.
With the country ill-prepared to provide for its growing legion of retirees, Lang said, perhaps the best way to cope with the elderly is to encourage them to take care of themselves.
That would be just fine with Hsu A-mei (許阿美), 67, a self-taught swimmer who strutted her stuff in a bathing suit at the conference.
Hsu takes to the water whenever she has spare time, she said, adding that swimming has kept her healthy and fit.
"I used to have shoulder problems before I retired and started swimming,"she said.
"Now my shoulder is all better," she said.