Building better hiking trails for the elderly

August 20, 2019 18:23
A file picture of Shing Mun Country Park in southwestern New Territories. Hong Kong authorities need to improve the facilities in the country parks to cater to the needs of people with different levels of physical fitness. Photo: HKEJ

During public holidays, many Hong Kong residents often go hiking in country parks along with their children and elders.

Given this popular activity and the growing number of the elderly in society, there is a need to improve the facilities in the country parks in order to provide the appropriate hiking trails for seniors of different levels of physical fitness. Here are some suggestions:

1. The government should build easy hiking trails for children and seniors and the disabled who are confined to wheelchairs or suffer from visual impairment, and slightly more difficult trails for the hikers who have to walk with canes.

Only physically fit and experienced adult hikers should be allowed to hike the most difficult trails.

2. Public toilets are a necessity when it comes to building hiking trails. But many of the existing public toilets in Hong Kong's country parks are run-down, cramped and unhygienic, not to mention the fact that one can barely find those facilities along many of the hiking trails.

As such, the government should provide a sufficient number of clean, easily accessible and good quality public toilets at suitable locations along the hiking trails for elderly hikers, because they often have to go to the toilet more frequently than younger adults.

3. Authorities should erect more and clearer hiking trail signs in order to prevent hikers from getting lost. QR code should be introduced to the signs so that hikers can have easy access to detailed information on safety and eco-knowledge through their smartphones.

4. An increasing number of local families have been going to the outlying islands for hiking. Yet many of the existing ferry piers on the islands are not that elderly friendly. Most kaito ferry services are also inaccessible for wheelchair users.

In view of this, the government should improve facilities at the ferry piers on the outlying islands, particularly for elderly people who are confined to wheelchairs. For instance, it should implement measures to encourage kaido ferry operators to introduce ferries that can provide access for wheelchair users.

Finally, the administration can hold open design competitions to allow young people to contribute to the improvement of the hiking trails by using their creativity.

The above-mentioned suggestions can not only improve the quality of life among the elderly and the disabled, they can also reduce the burden on the healthcare system and social welfare facilities in the long run.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 17. It reflects the author's personal opinions and does not represent the position of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects.

Translation by Alan Lee

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Fellow of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects.