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Ageing society

Every estate should have care facilities for seniors, Hong Kong’s first full elderly services plan proposes

Two-year study led by HKU also calls for long-term health insurance in face of city’s ageing population

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 October, 2016, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 11:59am

Urban planning rules should be revised, requiring every estate to include elderly care facilities such as nursing homes, according to the city’s first comprehensive plan on elderly care service, led by the University of Hong Kong.

The Elderly Services Programme Plan, a two-year study commissioned by government advisory group Elderly Commission, also suggested introducing long-term health care insurance for the city’s ageing population to ease the financial burden of the government. Demand for long-term nursing facilities is projected to double from about 60,000 this year to 125,000 by 2051.

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This is the first time since 1997 that long-term planning for the city’s elderly has been done. Dr Lam Ching-choi, chairman of the Commission, said it was “never too late” for such a plan.

“It’s the prime time to gain enough momentum to bring changes,,” he told the Post. Lam was confident that the suggestions would be implemented by the government, but acknowledged the challenges ahead.

Released yesterday, the blueprint, drafted by experts from five universities, suggested an “estate-based approach” in service ­provision so that new residential developments would be “self-containing” where possible.

Suggestions include at least one neighbourhood elderly ­centre in each new or redeveloped public housing estate, as well as in private housing. There should also be a district elderly community centre in each new town with a population of 170,000.

The report also called on the government to re-instate population-based planning ratios for elderly services in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines, a practice ditched in 2003.

Meanwhile, the importance of a more cost-effective model for public expenditure on long-term elderly care services was highlighted.

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The report questioned the sustainability of subsidised long-term elderly care services, with a suggestion to introduce long-term insurance as an alternative.

Labour Party lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung welcomed the study’s suggestions and said they were long overdue. “We have been criticising the ­government’s ignorance of elderly needs during the town planning process for so long. A community should be self-contained,” he said.

Lawmaker Chan Kin-por from the insurance sector agreed with the long-term health care insurance, which he said, could be a way out for the city amid its ageing ­population.

“People nowadays usually only purchase medical insurance as they do not know much about long-term care – but the latter can actually provide alternatives, such as home-care services,” he said. “It would also encourage better retirement planning for residents who are more well-off.”

Other major recommendations put forward by the plan:

– Strengthening services for elderly persons with dementia and considering the disease as an integral part in the planning of elderly services.

–Specific caregiver training for foreign domestic helpers to enhance their capability in the role.

–Encouraging private developers to provide more elderly service facilities and be “age friendly”.

–Strengthen public education to promote a positive image of the elderly, enhance their role in society as well as foster positive intergenerational relations.