Old age allowance

Hong Kong's old folk get raw deal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 4:33am

I refer to your editorial ("Quit stalling on old-age plan", November 1) and join you in urging lawmakers to pass the bill on the Old Age Living Allowance to help the poor elderly in Hong Kong, but I think the means test for the elderly aged over 70 should be lifted.

The elderly in this city enjoy far less respect than their peers in other developed societies.

Old people in Australia are called senior citizens and enjoy a host of privileges in society.

Those living on the old age pension from the government can lead a comfortable life.

In Taiwan, there are priority seats for the elderly and physically challenged on the mass rapid transit system, and the other passengers will not occupy them even during rush hours and even when there are no old folk in the compartment.

The elderly here are considered liabilities rather than assets because most Hongkongers judge people by their economic worth rather than their experience in life.

Our social welfare system is residual, and those elderly people living on the old age allowance can hardly afford to eat three proper meals each day.

Many of them have to suffer stifling heat in summer and freezing cold in winter in the tiny cubicles they live in.

Indeed, most people consider the non-means-tested old age allowance or "fruit money" as charity rather than their entitlement.

My friend's 76-year-old father has refused to apply for the fruit money because of the stigma attached to it.

The government can help ease the plight of the very poor old people, but it will take a lot more time to cultivate a culture of respect and appreciation for our senior citizens.

A month ago, my 86-year-old father was going to his dental appointment at 10.30am.

The MTR train was delayed and packed, and my father, who weighs only 41kg, had to stand for almost an hour.

No one offered him a seat until he almost fainted when the train was stalled at Sham Shui Po station.

I just cannot come to terms with such callousness of people who may never imagine they will also grow old and frail one day.

It is pleasing to see the government trying to care for the elderly in Hong Kong, but it will take a lot more than financial help to cultivate genuine respect and consideration for our senior citizens.

Clive Chan, Lam Tin