Community group urges help for aged to fix their flats

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 August, 2004, 12:00am

The government was yesterday urged to help the elderly repair their dilapidated flats, after a 78-year-old man was killed by debris falling from the ceiling of his Shamshuipo home on Thursday.

Counselling services should also be provided for old people who refused to move despite a dangerous living environment, the Society for Community Organisation warned.

Society organiser Sze Lai-shan said government statistics released last year indicated at least 27,000 people over the age of 60 lived in substandard housing in areas such as Shamshuipo, To Kwa Wan and Kwun Tong - about half of them alone.

She criticised the lack of financial assistance for poverty-stricken residents to repair their old flats.

'Very often, the flat owners cannot afford the repair work, leaving the old, poor tenants totally helpless,' Ms Sze said.

She said the government had in recent years speeded up the process of resettling older people in public housing flats. But many refused to move for fear of adapting to a new environment.

'Many of the elderly in poor areas are passive, depressed and suicidal,' she said. 'They would rather wait for death than ask for help. Hong Kong is so unfriendly to the elderly that they feel like they are begging if they ask for help.'

Ms Sze said her group was hoping to provide a one-to-one counselling service to assist and encourage the elderly to move to public housing flats. 'It takes a long time for an old person to trust you,' she said. But resources were insufficient.

Wong Ng-kai, who lived alone in one of the cubicles on the third floor of an apartment block in Castle Peak Road, was found lying unconscious on a staircase on Thursday morning. He was declared dead at hospital.

Police found concrete from the ceiling of Wong's unit and suspect he was hit by falling debris.

The Buildings Department said after an inspection yesterday that the overall structure of the 53-year-old block was safe. But a spokeswoman for the department said the team found debris falling from the top-floor staircase.

'The team also found some falling debris from the ceiling of some vacant cubicles in the victim's flat, but not in the one he occupied. We will issue the flat owner an order to repair the flat as soon as possible.'