Wang Deshun never set foot in a gym until he turned 50. Thirty years later, in 2015, the octogenarian catapulted to fame, following a 30-second, bare-chested runway appearance during China Fashion Week. He swims more than half a mile each day and spends three hours at the gym each afternoon. When interviewed by The New York Times, he offered this advice: “One way to tell if you’re old or not is to ask yourself, ‘Do you dare try something you’ve never done before?’ Nature determines age, but you determine your state of mind.”
In a society where the legal retirement age is 60 for most men, Deshun is reshaping cultural norms and what it means to grow older. At 65, he learned to ride a horse and at 78, a motorbike. Born in 1936 in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, at the age of 14, one year after the Communist Party came to power, he began working as a streetcar conductor. His real loves, however, were acting, dancing, singing and playing musical instruments. By age 24, he was enjoying a successful acting career. At 49, created his own pantomime troupe and left for Beijing where he subsequently lost everything and became a “drifter.” That’s when he started working out and returned to acting at age 57. At 79, he walked the “catwalk” as a model for the first time.