How we can provide more help for our growing population of elderly who fail to provide for themselves has stirred up intermittent debate in recent years. In 1995, a former secretary for health and welfare was criticised for reporting the results of a survey which found that an elderly person could survive on just $35 a day. The survey also revealed that many poor elderly people receiving cash grants under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme did not spend all they got, even though the payments were calculated to meet their basic needs only. On the other hand, social workers have reported that many old people are living on the Old Age Allowance only, and refuse to apply for CSSA even though they lead a miserable life and are clearly eligible. The allowance is not meant as welfare for the poor, but is aimed at honouring the past contributions of our senior citizens. At present, those between 65 and 69 who pass a means test are paid $625 each a month, while those above 70 are paid $705 regardless of their financial status. The amount is small, and that is why the allowance is known as 'fruit money'. But although the payment to each recipient is limited, the scheme cost $3.6 billion last year, as it covered more than 450,000 people, about 320,000 of whom were over 70. Some social workers now argue that the allowance should be increased because some elderly depend on it. But their logic is flawed, because that would mean changing the objective of the allowance. Despite the lack of community-wide retirement protection prior to the introduction of the Mandatory Provident Fund schemes, the majority of our elderly people are able to live off their own savings. Why should they be paid allowance money they do not need when it can be used to help the really needy in a much more targeted way? The small number of poor elderly people who refuse to apply for CSSA should be persuaded to seek appropriate help. It would be wrong to increase the Old Age Allowance because some have wrongly regarded it as a substitute for the CSSA.