Urgent need for officials to help elderly who endure awful conditions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2012, 12:00am


I refer to Lisa Wong's letter ('World-class city should not allow its elderly to languish in helpless indignity', March 3).

It is not breaking news to anyone in this city that Hong Kong has long neglected its duty to provide a dignified retirement for its senior citizens, especially those with a lower income.

In one extreme case, a home worker forced one helpless elderly client to eat faeces, and there have been reports of residents in public homes for the elderly having to wait naked in line in order to bathe. This situation is deplorable.

There is no excuse for the current living conditions some of the elderly endure. The government is neglecting important issues, such as helping old people, while at the same time wasting resources on less important matters.

The HK$6,000 handout is an example of the government's misguided priorities. As the administration attempts to appease irate citizens with this handout, the elderly, as Ms Wong puts it, 'languish in helpless indignity'.

The majority of people do not urgently need a handout; the elderly do badly need sanitary living conditions. Similar to the handout is the government's providing two rent-free months for public housing tenants.

While offering relief from the burden of rent for average citizens is a noble gesture, the temporary subsidy is just that: temporary. While low-income tenants do need whatever aid they can get, the need of the elderly is much more pressing.

The plan for luxury housing for the elderly is perhaps the most egregious example of the government's misuse of resources. Though the intention behind it is laudable, the HK$3 million ['one-off'] rental fee is an astronomical sum of money to the majority ('Housing Society off beam, lawmakers say', March 15). Proponents argue that providing well-off elderly people with a luxury alternative will free up lower-cost rental housing for those with smaller incomes. However, this trickle-down approach will need years to take root.

The bottom line is that it is the helpless elderly who are in dire need of assistance, not those who are rich enough to support themselves and to choose a better lifestyle.

Hong Kong was created from the hard work and spirit of previous generations. As we, their children, reap the fruits they have sown, we owe them a great debt. The elderly deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Nothing less is acceptable.

Ho Kam-tong, Yuen Long