BEIJING, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- "Many people died in their 30s or 40s when I was a child, and living to be 60 was considered longevity," said Chen Zhixiang, an 81-year-old retired teacher who grew up in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
Chen can't remember eating meat during his childhood. As he recalled, people suffered from a scarcity of food and clothing at that time, and if anyone caught an epidemic disease there was little hope of a cure.
That, however, has become history. The average life expectancy of Chinese people has more than doubled in the past 70 years.
According to statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, the life expectancy of Chinese people has been continuously increasing from 35 in 1949 to 57 in 1957, 68 in 1981, and reaching 77 years in 2018.
China's per capita disposable income was 49.7 yuan (7 U.S. dollars) in 1949 but reached 28,228 yuan in 2018, an increase of nearly 60 times in real terms after deducting price factors.
With a more affluent life, people are enjoying healthier and more nutritious diets. Fresh vegetables and fruits of every season and from every corner of the country are available all year round.
Smallpox has been eradicated completely, and there are no more local cases of malaria. Endemic diseases, such as iodine deficiency disorders, have been effectively controlled or eliminated. Full basic medical coverage has been achieved.
"My little sister died of diarrhea and dehydration at the age of three. If only she had been born now!" Chen sighed.
Not only has death from minor illnesses become history, but living a long and healthy life is increasingly becoming the norm.
China has been promoting the Healthy China initiative, which aims to improve the national health policy and ensure the delivery of comprehensive lifecycle health services for the Chinese people.
In 2016, China's healthy life expectancy reached 68.7 years, surpassing that of the United States for the first time. Chinese people not only live longer lives, but also healthier ones.
"Now people over 65 can enjoy a free physical examination every year, and most diseases can be found and treated in time," said Shi Kecun, 86, who lives in Shizhai Village of Shanxian County, east China's Shandong Province.
"The number of people looking after their health is increasing. Living to my age is not rare in the village, and some people even live to over 100 years old. Our county has been rated a 'longevity town'," Shi said.
Living a long and healthy life, the sincere wish of Chinese people for thousands of years, is becoming a reality.