When does old age begin? This question comes to mind every time I hear the word "elderly" being used. If something "comes to mind" it means you suddenly remember it or start thinking about it. Hong Kong people use the word "elderly" even for people in their late 50s or early 60s. Government officials are the biggest offenders. An offender is a person who does something illegal. But the word "offender" can also be used to mean a person who has done something wrong but not illegal. It is wrong nowadays to call people in their 50s or even late 60s "elderly". In fact, the word "elderly" is now considered politically incorrect and seldom used in places such as the US. But it is used here on buses, the MTR, and in government announcements.
Calling a person elderly gives the impression that the person is disabled, helpless, or dependent on others. Medical advances mean people nowadays live much longer. A recent Japanese government study found that Hong Kong women and men have the longest life expectancies in the world. The expression "life expectancy" means the average number of years a person or animal can expect to live. The study found that Hong Kong women have a life expectancy of 87.32 years. Hong Kong men have a life expectancy of 81.24. Many local men and women aged 65 and above are very healthy. But the Hong Kong government defines people aged 65 and above as elderly. This is ridiculous.
Hillary Clinton, who is running to become America's next president, will be 69 years old in October. Donald Trump, her competitor, is 70. No one in the US calls them elderly. Older people in the US are called seniors, which is less demeaning than elderly. But even this is becoming less acceptable. The word "demeaning" means causing a person to lose his dignity. Older people nowadays prefer to be called older adults. Several recent studies have shown old age nowadays begins at 80. Hong Kong should, therefore, stop using the outdated word "elderly" to describe people in their late 50s or 60s, many of whom are healthy and still working.
到底幾歲開始算是老年？每當我聽到有人用上「老人」這個詞，這條問題都會在腦海中浮現（comes to mind）。若某事comes to mind，即是你突然想起或開始去想它。即使只是五十尾、六十頭的人，香港人也會稱他們為「老人」。政府官員更是罪魁禍首（offenders）。Offender是罪犯，但它也指一個人做了些錯事、卻並非犯法的。今天叫那些五十尾、六十頭的人做「老人」是錯的。事實上，elderly這個字現在被視為政治不正確，在美國這些地方已經鮮有使用；但在這裏，這個字在巴士、港鐵與政府公告上卻是很常用到。
叫一個人做老人，給人一個印象，就是那人是殘缺、無助或是倚賴他人的。醫學進步，意味着今天人們更長壽。最近一個日本官方的研究發現，香港的女人和男人擁有全球最高的平均壽命（life expectancies）。習語life expectancy即人或動物的平均預期壽命。研究發現，香港女性的平均壽命（life expectancy）有87.32歲，香港男性的平均壽命（life expectancy）則有81.24歲。本地許多年逾六十五歲的男女都很健康，但香港政府卻將六十五歲或以上的人定義為老人。這是荒謬的。
競逐美國下任總統之位的希拉莉，到了十月便已六十九歲，她的競爭對手特朗普亦已七十。美國沒有人會叫他們做老人。在美國，年長的人會被稱為seniors，相對elderly一語，不那麼demeaning。Demeaning意指令某人喪失尊嚴。今天較年長的人士希望被稱為older adults。幾個近期的研究也顯示，今時今日的老年由八十歲開始。因此，香港也應停止使用過時的「elderly」一字，去形容那些五十尾、六十頭的人，他們許多人仍很健康，還在工作。[email protected]
Michael Chugani 褚簡寧