Ageing and the concurrent prevalence of chronic disease in older adults produce a great burden and challenge for family, society and individuals. There is a definite need to build the science about caring for older Chinese adults from their perspective to inform health-care professionals. The aim of the study was to investigate the meaning of life and health experience of Chinese elderly with chronic illness and identify health potential from a positive perspective. A qualitative descriptive study was undertaken to interview 11 older adults ages 64–92 in a day centre. In 2011, the data were collected and analysed by thematic analysis. Four interrelated themes indicated a rich meaning of life and health experience from the older adults: (i) happiness lies in contentment; (ii) sense of responsibility; (iii) letting nature take its course; (iv) and proactive self-balance. These interrelated themes with partial conflict presented a dialectic meaning of life and were interpreted from traditional Chinese culture and compared with positive health philosophy. The significance of finding will encourage nursing practice work with clients and identify the potential and self-help strength of the elderly.