In a highly pressured society like Hong Kong, suicide rates have always been high. It is a syndrome crossing every age group from school children unable to get the examination results their families expect, to old people beset by declining health and fears about becoming a burden to their children. Add to that economic woes, as the middle-class watch their savings dwindle and their homes plummet in value, and they too see death as a way out. On one day last month, 15 people attempted to kill themselves. Eight were caught in time. Five of the victims ranged in age between 29 and 49. But the greatest number of suicides is still among older people, who cannot hope for any upturn in their fortunes. Their health is not likely to improve and many are housebound and isolated. Long accustomed to the struggle to make ends meet, money troubles rank among their lesser worries. It is impossible to assess accurately the effect of outreach teams run by the Suicide Prevention Services. If they succeed in improving the lives of the old folk they work with, there will be no statistics. But it does not take much imagination to recognise that a visit from someone who listens, and gives practical advice and assistance, can bring about a great change in attitude in someone coping with depression or despair. These are not temporary problems caused by external circumstances. The problems of ageing will multiply as the number of elderly increases. It is an acute and chronic social crisis; one which the authorities must confront before it gets out of hand. Unless the Government is prepared to directly fund some services to try to cut down the suicide rate among the over 60s, present sources of help may simply shut down. Charities are struggling against falling donations, and that can only get worse until the economy revives. The sum involved in the outreach service is $1.6 million annually. That is not much for the Government to provide in a humanitarian cause. This society is supposed to revere age and protect its older citizens, but in reality official help is minimal and most of the work left to the NGOs. The first task for the authorities is to streamline all services to prevent overlap, and to ensure that funding goes where it is most needed and can do most good. Too much time is wasted discussing negative equity. These worries are not minor, but neither are they permanent. Things will improve. The old face lasting problems. The middle-class must wake up to the fact that prosperity is not a birthright.