Smith (1995) proposes that Hmong elders do not fit the chronological ages that have traditionally been established in the U.S. for defining elders. This is attributed to a number of factors.
For example, historically it was not uncommon for Hmong couples to begin having children at age 15 and subsequently become grandparents by 30-40 years of age. Because many Hmong endured harsh living conditions in Laos during the war, in refugee camps in Thailand, and had a difficult transition to the U.S., their traumatic life experiences have likely accelerated the aging process.
Also, Hmong persons do not traditionally quantify an elder by a specific age for two primary reasons:
- Without documentation people did not know their exact ages.
- Elders were generally defined by important life experiences and the wisdom acquired over a lifetime. There is currently no data available for the life expectancy of Hmong living in the U.S.