Academies for retirees launched

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2007, 12:00am

About 5,000 retirees are expected to take lessons at 32 'senior academies' in a pilot scheme funded by the Elderly Commission.

The lessons cover subjects including personal health care, computing, English and tai chi, and are being jointly organised by NGOs and primary and secondary schools in different districts.

Primary and secondary school pupils will act as volunteer teachers and the schools will lend classrooms for the lessons. The retirees will attend lessons once or twice a week and most courses will last for three to six months.

At ceremonies held in Tuen Mun and Yuen Long yesterday to launch the academies, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government hoped the scheme would promote interaction between the older and younger generation.

'Young people have a lot of new knowledge and technology skills, while the elderly people have rich life experience. We hope to provide an opportunity for them to share these with each other,' he said.

Mr Cheung said the scheme also aimed to encourage the elderly to enjoy their retirement.

'At the moment, about one in eight people is aged over 65. By 2033, one in four will be over 65. Elderly welfare and services is one of the government's main focuses.'

The pilot scheme will run for two years and provide learning opportunities for about 5,000 people aged 60 and above.

Thirty-two senior academies are expected to be up and running by the end of this year.

Mr Cheung said the government could extend the scheme after reviewing the pilot operation.

Charges for the courses will range from HK$20 to more than HK$100, and the commission has given each academy HK$50,000 in seed money.

Tai Hay-lap - principal of Yan Oi Tong Tin Ka Ping Secondary School, which is co-ordinating the Yan Shun Senior Academy in Tuen Mun - applauded the goals of the scheme and urged the government to expand the programme into a long-term project.

Chan Kwai-fong, 83, was invited by social workers at a community centre to join the senior academy programme. She said she did not really know what lessons she would take, but thought it would be fun to learn from the young teachers.

'It's good to learn something new and play with the young people. They are very energetic. It's better than just playing mahjong all the time,' she said.

Lam Ka-ki, a Form Two student at Yan Oi Tong Tin Ka Ping Secondary School, said that she was eager to be a volunteer teacher at the academy because she seldom had contact with elderly people.

Industrialist Chiang Chen yesterday donated HK$200,000 to the senior academy programme to provide subsidies to those who cannot afford the courses.