PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2008, 12:00am

What can be done to care better for the elderly?

There seems to be a tendency, even in some articles in the South China Morning Post ('Homes idle as elderly die on long waiting list', May 12), to define the elderly as 60 and above.

It is not appropriate because so many people in their 60s, and even above this age range, are physically and mentally active to a degree unimaginable even 50 years ago. It is not practical because if policies are tailored to this definition of elderly, then there are not enough resources to cope.

Elderly should mean 70 or above, with scope for raising that age in the future.

If we are to agree that 70 is the dividing age, then anyone less than that age would be expected to provide for their own livelihood, just as they will have been used to doing for the extent of their working life.

This would mean there would be no bar on people working between the ages of 60 and 70 - that is, no retirement age until at least 70. In other words, the way we now live to 60 we would instead live until 70.

This would enable scarce resources to be devoted to caring for the over-70s instead of the over-60s, resulting in enhanced care for a smaller number of people.

This viewpoint is already accepted in many European countries, as well as in North America, where laws against ageism are in place and most people want to, and are expected to, work to a much older age than 60.

The biggest obstacle in Hong Kong is the government, which forces its employees to stop working at 60. Other organisations then jump on the bandwagon.

Government employees may not object to this state of affairs, because they receive a pension for the rest of their lives.

This type of circumstance is not so prevalent in other organisations, and one would expect it to change within government.

Because of the reluctance of this body to move with the times, Hong Kong lags behind the developed world in terms of caring for the elderly, because it is trying to spread limited resources over too wide an age range.

Expect and enable people to work until 70 and the situation will become much easier to handle.

Of course, show respect to the 'elderly', but do not patronise them.

Chris Stubbs, Discovery Bay

What do you think of supermarket prices?

Supermarkets have long been seen as a wise choice by shoppers, because they are convenient and have special items at low prices.

I can understand that supermarkets need to raise product prices, especially of food, because of their increased costs.

However, recent surveys conducted by different organisations have unanimously indicated that their prices are far higher than those at local grocery stores and pharmacies. This implies that supermarket prices have increased more than they should have.

Setting low product prices was a tactic adopted by supermarkets in previous decades to get the necessary share of the market.

However, in recent years, having achieved market dominance, I feel that they are now exploiting public trust in order to maximise their profits.

Nowadays, despite various discounts offered at supermarkets, we can always get a better deal at the smaller, local stores.

Currently, leading supermarket chains in Hong Kong are backed by large conglomerates.

Therefore, I think it is unnecessary for these companies to increase prices by as much as they are doing in order to maintain daily operating costs, because they have plenty of capital in hand and because of the economies of scale brought about by their extensive networks.

In fact, I believe it is time for these companies to show their corporate social responsibility and help the poor in Hong Kong get through this difficult time.

Fiona Fong, Shau Kei Wan

What do you think of the bus fare proposals?

With rising oil prices it is inevitable that bus companies will need to increase their fares.

What I am not happy about is the quality of the bus companies' fleets of vehicles.

If they want to raise fares, that is fine, but they should also upgrade their buses.

Among the different bus companies in Hong Kong, I would say that KMB has some of the most modern and best-quality buses.

With New World First Bus, it is quite the opposite.

I have not seen improvements to its fleet since it took over from Citybus. I take the No171 every morning.

The one operated by KMB is new and comfortable but Citybus is still using the same old buses.

Going home in the evening, I take 590A and I'd like to ask New World First Bus what it is doing with such old buses.

The buses are not clean, the seats have been subject to countless repairs and the ride is bone-shakingly uncomfortable.

I have to pay HK$6.10 to get to South Horizons, but now I would rather take Citybus No90 (an old bus but better than the New World First Bus vehicle) to Ap Lei Chau estate for HK$4.70 and exercise by walking the 200 metres home.

New World First Bus - no pun intended - you are surely taking us for a ride.

William Sim, Ap Lei Chau

Are the new hospital rules enough to protect data?

It was disturbing to learn about data missing regarding patients in our public hospitals.

We are supposed to put our trust in these hospitals and yet they keep letting us down, leaving patients disappointed by their performance.

What is important, with an overhaul of data, is that safeguards are put in place so hospitals do not repeat these mistakes.

Clearly, the leaks have shown that data controls at our public hospitals are not foolproof.

I hope that after the overhaul of computer systems is complete, the quality of the service provided by our public hospitals will improve and patients will ultimately benefit.

Kim Lee, Hung Hom

On other matters ...

My recent words of warning to Cathay Pacific regarding its customer services (Talkback, May 1) prompted a standard 'reassurance' from the airline's public relations spokeswoman (Talkback, May 6).

She did not address my specific complaints regarding the airline's non-responsive website and unexplained termination of its Visa card.

I recently tried to contact Cathay Pacific to speak to someone about changing a reservation for an Asiamiles redemption.

The Asiamiles telephone number was constantly busy. The Marco Polo Club number was so busy that it asked members to leave their contact information and promised a return call.

I urge all Cathay Pacific's senior executives to try to contact their airline's reservations, customer services, Marco Polo and Asiamiles departments by e-mail and telephone.

To properly gauge their efficiency, and the consequent satisfaction levels of the public, they must use an ordinary Marco Polo membership number (basic green card) or Asiamiles number.

To fully appreciate the time-wasting frustrations involved, they must try to contact their airline personally and not depute the tedious task to junior staff.

They will then realise that their customer-serving departments appear to be woefully understaffed, or underfunded.

If they manage to reach a frontline voice, they will also discover that they have excellent, underappreciated personnel coping with frustrated passengers.

Barry Girling, Lantau

I would like to mention the great work being done by Sally Anderson and the employees and volunteers at Hong Kong Dog Rescue in Pok Fu Lam.

Last Friday, after registering as a volunteer dog walker, I took several dogs out for walks over a four-hour period.

It was tiring, but I enjoyed it enormously and, more importantly, seeing a dog wagging its tail when it knows it is time for a walk is wonderful.

There are lots of dogs at the kennels who need good homes but in the meantime they need patting, cuddling and walking daily.

So if there are any Hong Kong dog lovers out there who can spare a few hours a week to walk the dogs, do yourselves a favour (and the dogs) and please give Hong Kong Dog Rescue a call or go to the website.

The dogs need you and it's a wonderful feeling afterwards.

Sue Thomas, Wan Chai

Once again, those responsible for programme selection on Hong Kong's television stations saved themselves the bother of making any effort to broadcast anything at all special for a public holiday.

On May 12, for example, there was only the usual dreary array of bought-in programmes and serials.

Who wants to have an hour of The Wall Street Journal Report during prime time on a public holiday, or a full hour about elderly car drivers in Britain?

Showing a good film or another special programme would be welcome. But no, only the usual poor selection methods were applied.

Such a lack of imagination or care for their viewers' needs is a shocking indictment of our lazy TV programme selectors.

Rob Leung, Wan Chai


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