Hongkongers are criticized for not caring much for the elderly.
Mature workers suffer discrimination. They often get lower pay, less training opportunities and have little chances of getting promoted.
Old people who cannot take care of themselves are sent to crammed nursing homes and family members only visit them once in a while.
In his latest policy speech, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying proposed a few cosmetic measures to make our city more age-friendly.
But installing devices to lengthen the time for old people to cross the street or fitting public toilets with non-slip surfaces won’t get to the root of the problem.
It is said that people are apathetic to the elderly because they don’t know what it’s like to be one of them, so they cannot relate to their problems and tend to ignore their needs.
Hong Kong can perhaps learn a thing or two from Taiwan about this matter.
To prepare for a much older population, Taiwan has been actively building a more accessible and amicable environment for seniors. It is predicted that 20 percent of the island’s population will hit 65 or above by 2025.
The focus is not only on the facilities and hardware. Considerable effort is also being spent on changing the society’s attitude towards the elderly.
For example, to help younger people understand the everyday challenges faced by the elderly, as early as 2014, Taipei has already set up a U-life Village inside the Taipei Expo Park to let the average citizen “experience” the process.
One of the exhibits is a simulator which lets people feel what it’s like if they suffer from hearing loss that comes with aging.
There is also a magic mirror that shows how one will look like in 10 years’ time, based on information provided by the visitors about their diet, frequency of doing exercise and whether they are smokers or not.
U-Life Village also doubles as a health center where the elderly can keep a tab on their physical condition by having metrics like blood pressure and body weight regularly checked and uploaded to a cloud facility, which will then alert them to any abnormal situation.
In addition, it features the kind of home settings that can make life easier for the elderly, like moving around and taking a bath.
The private sector is also pitching in. For instance, certain Taiwan property developers specialize in building age-friendly homes or related renovation work.
There are also numerous creative facilities like day care centers where the elderly can take lessons to relearn basic stuff and skills, much like similar facilities for kids except that they are geared toward old people.
Since early 2000s, Hong Kong’s population has been ageing steadily. By 2064, more than a third of the city’s population would be aged 65 or above, according to the policy address.
We need to be aware that before long, somebody else’s problem will become most people’s problem.
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