Elderly go hungry to stretch welfare cash, survey finds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 August, 2002, 12:00am

Three in five elderly people on welfare choose low-quality food and one in five skip meals to save money, according to a study by the Caritas Community Development Service.

The expenditure study, of 209 elderly people on Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) between the end of last year and last month, showed one-third of elderly people had cut spending on clothing and visits to the hairdresser.

Nearly 30 per cent said they would not take transport or they chose a cheaper mode of transport.

Sixty-five per cent buy poor-quality food and 22.2 per cent skip meals to save money, while 18.4 per cent use both methods to save money. More than 60 per cent said they seldom had visitors and more than 70 per cent rarely visited their friends and relatives.

Caritas supervisor Wong Chi-kan said low CSSA payments deprived the elderly not only of the basic needs, but also their dignity.

Ms Wong said most elderly people felt ashamed to invite their friends and relatives to their run-down homes, which they did not have enough savings to repair.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 elderly people yesterday queued for a rice handout at a playground in Kowloon City to mark the Yu Lan Festival, or Hungry Ghosts Festival, this month.

Police were called to maintain order when some elderly people tried to push their way through.

'Had I got a job, I'd not be queuing up here,' an elderly woman said.

More than 2,000 tickets were issued before the organiser started distributing the free bags of rice at 3.30pm.

One of the elderly women fainted in the heat but regained consciousness with the help of police officers. She refused to be taken to hospital.