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Trending in China: Dazed and Confused – China’s Elderly in Online Pandemic World

Yilin Chen / Jun 30, 2020 06:14 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

A 2019 study by the National Bureau of Statistics shows that only 23% of people aged 60 and above in China know how to access the internet. Citing this number, a recent TV program by state-broadcaster CCTV outlined typical difficulties that old people face in the digital era and urged young people to teach smartphone skills to their parents and grandparents.

What’s the story?

CCTV points out that it has become increasingly hard for old people in China to carry out simple tasks in their daily lives which are now done increasingly online. Whether paying at a shop that doesn’t accept cash, hailing a taxi without a ride-hailing app, or making an appointment at a hospital that relies on online registrations, senior citizens are being left behind as smartphones bring convenience to the younger generation.

The topic has received renewed attention during the Covid-19 pandemic. In cooperation with internet giants, the Chinese government launched an expansive network of color-coded “health QR codes” that track people’s health status. The codes are often mandatory for using public transportation or entering buildings. Following numerous incidents of old people being barred from riding buses because they could not show QR codes, some cities have offered more accommodating measures such as paper health forms. Nevertheless, old people still face considerable difficulties as they navigate the unfamiliar territory of QR codes, mobile payments, and digitized information.

What are people saying online?

While CCTV called on young people to teach digital literacy to their elderly loved ones, many people argue that it should instead be the service industry’s responsibility to be more accommodating of people without smartphones. “I wish society could leave some room for these old people,” one user wrote.

Other people feel that it is still necessary to try to teach old people. “When we get old and can no longer keep up with technological developments, I hope that someone will be there to teach us,” one user commented.

Contact editor Marcus Ryder (

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