China Daily 2017-10-11
Cao Xuemei and her husband, Cui Xingli, interact with their audience during a livestreaming session. [Zhang Jing/For China Daily]
Cao Xuemei, 76, gets up at 6:30 am every day to dress and feed her 79-year-old husband, Cui Xingli, who has suffered a series of strokes and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease five years ago.
Everything's typical for the family of an Alzheimer's patient, until 8:30 am, when the couple take their places in front of a camera at home in Wuhan, Hubei province, to greet tens of thousands of fans in their livestreaming community.
With assistance from their granddaughter, Cao started broadcasting with her husband on their channel, Kaixin Nainai, or Happy Grandma, in July 2016. She hoped the entertainment would help revive her husband's mental functions.
Since then, the silver-haired pair have spent a total of three hours a day broadcasting, singing, dancing and taking questions from the audience.
Cao asks her husband－an engineer before he retired 24 years ago－simple questions during the broadcast, such as "How old are you?" and "What grade are you in?" He gives answers: "I'm 8" and "I'm in Grade 4." Sometimes, Cui will just repeat what Cao says.
To Cao's surprise, her husband's memory and spirit "improved significantly" over the period. "At the beginning, my husband had difficulty swallowing pills, but three months later he could sing," she said.
The couple became internet celebrities in no time－with most of their audience half a century younger－and have received loads of gifts. Now they have more than 27,000 fans on their channel on Inke, a popular livestreaming platform.
"My fans are super nice and enthusiastic, and I am not embarrassed singing and dancing for them," Cao said. "I am constantly asked by lovelorn young people for advice on love and relationships, and I always tell them to be sincere and love for love's sake," she said.
Through chatting with a loving audience and performing for followers, Cao said, the livestreaming has filled her life with new joys.
"I've spent many sleepless nights caring for my husband, but I never felt miserable because he has been precious to me throughout my married life. Now, with the camera, I can dance with him to the music so naturally－even before I knew it," Cao said.
Their son, Cui Huaimin, said: "We were first worried that long-term broadcasting would harm their health and exacerbate my father's condition. But we gave in at last, seeing they were so happy before the camera.
Netizens and fans were moved by the couple's love after they learned their story.
"I worked at an institution with Alzheimer's patients. I know exactly how difficult it is to look after them. Grandma is a great person," said one netizen on Sina Weibo.
Another said: "Bless them. I like to watch such livestreaming. We should spend more time with family members in their old age. By the time they don't remember you and can't walk around with you anymore, you will regret it."