Date
19 November 2017
The elderly have priority to some seats but younger people are not in the habit of giving their seats to them. Photo: MTR
The elderly have priority to some seats but younger people are not in the habit of giving their seats to them. Photo: MTR

Giving seats to the elderly: More needs to be done

For the elderly in Hong Kong, taking a bus or the MTR is tiring and inconvenient. More often than not, they have to stand because the “priority” seats designated for them are taken.

The Hong Kong government has since 2012 offered a fare discount of HK$2 (25 US cents) to encourage more senior citizens to go out more often, but younger people are not in the habit of giving their seats to the elderly, Metro Hong Kong reported Monday.

Now there are calls for the government to promote a culture of offering seats to those who need them and to look into the insufficient supply of priority seats.

Such a culture is less prevalent than in Japan and Taiwan, the report said. And bus passengers are often criticized by netizens for being busy with their smartphones and ignoring elderly people around them. 

A survey earlier this year by the Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association finds nearly 40 percent of 1,100 people aged 55 or older were not offered seats on buses, with 15 percent resorting to asking others to let them have a seat. And the longer the trip, the less likely for the elderly to be offered seats.

A lack of sympathy on the part of passengers does not help. So some elderly people have learned that they have to help themselves if they want to avoid sore or numb legs from standing in buses.

Chan, a 72-year-old woman, said she is seldom offered a seat and the only thing she could do is ask if there is anyone willing to give up their seat. 

The seat offering culture in Hong Kong has improved in recent years but has not reached a satisfying level, a director at the association said. 

However, making seat offering mandatory by law is not the way to go, she said. The government should instead promote the culture through educating citizens.

But more than two-thirds of elderly people, 64.7 percent, do not know what a priority seat is, some surveys show.

Some groups think this reveals why such seats are not used efficiently and more education and promotion is necessary.

Related stories:

Michael Tien bats for disabled on public transport

Subway etiquette: The debate never stops

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