Elderly should not have to endure cage-home conditions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 September, 2010, 12:00am

It might surprise some people to know that there are still thousands of people living in cage homes in Hong Kong.

The city has an ageing population, with more people living longer.

One of the problems connected with this is that many elderly people in cage homes lead miserable lives.

Young Hongkongers are possibly not fully aware of their plight.

I recently saw a documentary on cage dwellers in Kwun Tong.

Some elderly people were living in cages with beds which were only about one metre by two metres. This bed was effectively their home and contained every basic necessity for daily life, such as towels, shampoo, bed linen and pillows. They had to lock themselves in, and it reminded me of caged animals.

Their living environment is not normal and cannot be considered acceptable. The air inside these dwellings is stuffy because of poor ventilation.

This is not healthy, as germs can easily spread.

It is worse for cage dwellers who are over 65.

They have weaker immune systems and are especially susceptible to infectious diseases.

These elderly people can barely make ends meet. They are paying unreasonable rents, in some cases as much as someone staying in a flat in a public housing estate.

The United Nations has described these dwellings as an 'an insult to human dignity'.

How can a cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong allow this inhumane state of affairs to continue without something being done?

Social workers and charities can provide short-term support like meals, clothes and cleaning services, but their efforts are in vain if people have to continue enduring what I would call living hell.

Our ultimate goal should be to get people out of cage homes altogether.

In the long run, the relevant government departments should increase public housing estate building programmes.

The Social Welfare Department should allocate more resources so that there are more places at nursing homes and better care services for the elderly.

Hongkongers need to speak out about this social issue and press the government to act.

This would not be a prosperous city without the endeavours of the elderly during their working lives.

They contributed so much to this society and they should not have to live in these conditions.

They deserve to be treated with dignity and be able to leave these cage homes.

Crystal Leung, Yuen Long