Chinese: Old People Becoming Bad, or Bad People Becoming Old?

Chinese elderly men in wheelchairs with canes.

Chinese elderly men in wheelchairs.

From QQ:

Are Elderly People Turning Bad? Or Are Elderly People Being Defamed?

Recently, negative news about elderly people have been frequently exposed by the media, which has prompted much whipping and flogging [criticism and controversy], and everything that is unpleasant has been said. Some media have even refined it into whether “old folks are turning bad or bad guys are turning old”. One sentence to sum up: there’s something wrong with the elderly in China. Setting aside prejudices and personal feelings, is it truly the case?

[Review and discussion of various recent negative news about the elderly, including the story of an elderly person sitting directly on the lap of a girl in Xi’an because she refused to give up her seat, of urban elderly Chinese people gathering to dance in public locations often with loud music disturbing nearby residents, and the infamous Nanjing Peng Yu case of “false accusation and extortion”.]

The selective attention paid to the problem of the elderly may partly be due to shifts in whose voices dominate society

Those who have no voice are easy to pick on?

Actually, when observing the comments on “news about the elderly”, you’ll notice that almost all of them are opinions expressed from the perspective of the young, with seldom any statements by the elderly. As a matter of fact, according to 2011 statistics from the CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center), people under the age of 35 make up 82.3% of Chinese netizens. Not only that, with the trend of web media moving to mobile platforms, mobile netizens in China in general tend to be even younger, with netizens over 50 making up only 7.2%.

When the information platform has been dominated by one group of people, the focus of the information will inevitably the foci of this group of people; the preferences in the information will inevitably be the preferences of this group of people; the judgements of the information will inevitably reflect the values of this group of people. Just like the piece of news about the elderly person in Xi’an who sat on the girl, even though it was very unreliable, it could have 30,000 comments within a few days, with tens of thousands of readers slamming the elderly as unrespectable. Yet, while also happening in Xi’an, a previous report of “Old Man Offers His Seat to Sick Young Lady, Says Life Isn’t Easy for the Young Either” only has a bit more than 100 comments. Similarly, “Old Man Gives Carved Eggshells to Young People on Bus Who Give Up Their Seats to Him” and “Elderly Person Gives Red Packets with 2 Yuan and a ‘Thank You’ Card to Passengers who Give Up Their Seats to Him” also don’t get much attention.

Concluding Remarks

Years ago, the mainstream of public opinion was the older generation criticizing the younger generation as a “broken generation”. Nowadays, with the younger generation now grown up, the mainstream of public opinion has become criticizing the older generation as unrespectable. Perhaps this is part of the truth behind “old folks turning bad”.

Do you believe there exists a phenomenon of elderly people in China being defamed?

QQ website poll asking if the elderly in China are being defamed

43,392 votes
Does not exist
30,531 votes

Comments on QQ:


This is a question with no answer. As the saying goes, there are two sides to everything, and anything positive has a corresponding negative, so there’s no need to fuss over whether this [phenomenon] exists or not. The characters [manners] of the whole population rely on being fostered in the lives and learning of us all. If everyone has the consciousness of deriving pleasure from helping others, these things you mention would not happen, so it’s better to stop asking such pointless questions, and just think about helping everyone improve this consciousness.


I’ve seen many elderly people who have the air and bearing befitting that of an elder, able to set an example for the younger generation. But there are also quite a few elderly people taking advantage of their seniority and capitalizing on their being advanced in age. One incident that left a deep impression in me was a sick girl who could hardly stand up being forced to give up her seat to an old man on the bus. I think in opinion of this old man, that row of seats was specially set for him, and the sick, disabled, or pregnant are all lower in status than him. Though all the people criticized him, the old man treated them all as just farting [ignored them]. So nobody would disrespect an elderly person worthy of respect, but those who wrongfully exploit their old age should be punished with severity. Old people should not be allowed to use the principle of respecting the elderly in order to scam people with false accusations of accident and injury.

Free Style—不以为:

Quite objectively written. Things shouldn’t be generalized. Society should also fairly judge this kind of problem from the standpoint of the elderly. The media’s guidance of public opinion is indeed really important. When reporting such issues, the perspective should be chosen with caution.


Please think about it carefully, why is it that this kind of elderly people are particularly numerous in our country? If all of them could enjoy a life with security in their old days, would they still behave like this? Who amongst you all knows what rights a citizen enjoys? Who amongst you all have heard of rights to medical care, old age pension, and social security? Let me tell you clearly, these are all inalienable rights of every citizen, but do these elderly people as well as you people have them? That we have a society without any faith/principles and without morality, just whose fault is it? Wake up, the inhuman originator of this evil is secretly laughing!


It was 20 years ago when I met an old lady, who fell down on the street. I went up to help her up, and was grabbed and held, with her insisting that I had knocked her down. Luckily, the crowd around us denounced her, but she continued to hold onto me. I broke free and left without looking back. From then on, I’ve never helped an old person up.


To sum it all up, it all goes back to the lack of resources, a conflict between the young people who work and the elderly who don’t competing for public resources, which is a social problem.


No matter old or young, first be aware of one’s own mistakes/faults before finding fault in others, and then society will become harmonious. Everyone nitpicking faults in others, while ignoring their own self-cultivation, is simply hurting ourselves in the long run.


Not every old person deserves our respect. There are bad people among the young as well as the elderly. It’s not that the old have become bad, but that the bad have become old.


When people say the old are unrespectable, they are saying some old people are unrespectable. When people say the elderly have turned bad, they are say have discovered that some elderly have turned bad. With regards to those old people who are unrespectable or have turned bad, we should not allow them to enjoy the benefits of being elderly but make them pay the price for being “unrespectable” and being “bad old people”. Being advanced in age is something we can be appropriate forgiving of, but it is not a fig leaf for severely inappropriate words and behavior!


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