Satellite towns face struggle to cope with elderly populations

Government urged to plan ahead as areas with fastest-growing number of residents over 65 face a shortage of homes and welfare facilities

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 4:53am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 10:41am

Satellite towns built since the 1970s will bear the brunt of the boom in Hong Kong’s elderly population over the next five years, with the number of residents over 65 expected to grow by more than a third.

The rates of growth in the number of elderly in Tuen Mun, Tai Po and Sha Tin will range from 34 to 41 per cent, compared to just 20 per cent in older districts. The figures emerged from a South China Morning Post analysis of the latest projections by the Census and Statistics Department.

Despite the likely growth indicated by the government’s own figures, only five of the 11 sites earmarked in the policy address for the construction of new homes for the elderly this year were in the three towns.

Others are in Sham Shui Po, Tsuen Wan, Yuen Long and Sheung Shui.

Also, little is known about the economic background of those turning 60 or 65 by 2018.

The Post approached the Labour and Welfare Bureau, Development Bureau, Education Bureau, and Census and Statistics Department, but none could give such details.

Chairman of the Elderly Commission Alfred Chan Cheung-ming said the government needed to collect more data and plan ahead to address the issue.

“For better programme planning, we will need to know which districts will face more demand for elderly nursing homes and day care centres.

“The data will also give information as to which public estates should be retrofitted earlier so the elderly can live in them,” Chan said. Fourteen per cent of Hong Kong’s population is aged 65 or over, a figure expected to rise to 30 per cent by 2040.

A Labour and Welfare Bureau spokeswoman said the possibility of reserving land in new developments and redevelopments for social welfare facilities would continue to be explored.

She added that in the medium term, the bureau hoped to convert vacant government premises, schools and public housing flats into such facilities.
More than half of the city’s elderly live in private housing.

Around a third live in public rental flats, built and maintained by the Housing Authority and Housing Society respectively. Another 17 per cent live in subsidised flats under the Home Ownership Scheme.

The Housing Authority, which manages most public flats, said it did not have figures to show how many flats had been modified for the elderly.

But a spokeswoman said about 5,000 flats in 50 estates had warden services and emergency alarm systems. The authority would also convert bath tubs into showers with a grab rail free of charge for elderly tenants upon request, as well as for families with members over 60.

A Housing Society spokesman said about 22,000 residents living in its public flats were aged 65 or over and it had helped 106 of them retrofit their homes.
Lifts were also built in the Kwun Lung Lau estate in Kennedy Town and the Ming Wah Dai Ha estate in Shau Kei Wan.