I AM writing to arouse public awareness on the issue of care for the elderly. I am shocked by the fact that the age group of people from 65 and upwards top the suicide rates in Hong Kong.
This highlights the problems of the elderly and the inadequacy of services for them. As the ageing problem in Hong Kong becomes more serious due to changes in family structure, immigration etc, it is high time the Government reviewed its comprehensive care of the aged.
Elderly people who have no pension have to survive on only $1,700 of public assistance per month, which is inadequate to meet their most basic needs. Moreover, the Government's bad flat-sharing policy does more harm than good.
It is dreadful that an argument over the use of a kitchen or a toilet can lead an elderly person, living with strangers, to committing murder or suicide. Furthermore, the Housing Department should give the elderly first priority and accommodate them in single-person units.
The Government should re-consider Professor Stewart MacPherson's report on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), which suggested that single elderly people should receive a basic grant of about $2,300 per month. It is now necessary to increase public assistance in order to improve the plight of this group.
However, the Government should also put more resources into education and re-training programmes for the elderly. Many people above 65 are still healthy and capable of working. The Government should take the lead and encourage private companies to employ people above 65 in part-time jobs. Society can benefit a lot by not losing these 'valuable assets'. In addition, the elderly should be encouraged to volunteer to take care of children. Most are 'experts' in looking after kids.
This can be an effective means of avoiding accidents to home-alone children and can improve communication between generations.
The elderly need our concern and support. When we become elderly, we will also want to live with dignity and security as well as being productive members of society.
WONG SIU-MAY Kowloon