Nearly seven out of every 10 people living in homes for the elderly agree with a suggestion that a means test be introduced in an attempt to shorten the waiting time for places in government-subsidised homes, a survey has found. But the elderly people stressed that the means test, which has been suggested by the Elderly Commission, should only assess their own assets, instead of those of their entire families. The survey was conducted by the Elderly Service Association of Hong Kong after a report by the commission last week suggested the means test and said more old people should stay at home instead of living in homes for the elderly. The association, which interviewed 3,214 residents in homes for the elderly, found that 2,218, or 69 per cent, backed a means test. 'The elderly people understand that the waiting time for government-subsidised homes is really too long and believe the needy ones should be served first,' association vice-president Kenneth Chan Chi-yuk said. The commission's report found 6.8 per cent of elderly people in Hong Kong lived in about 700 homes, which had 72,955 bed spaces. Only 32 per cent are government-subsidised, with the rest run by the private sector. A total of 25,000 elderly people are waiting for places in government-subsidised homes, with the waiting time ranging from 22 to 40 months. Chan noted that the survey respondents had only agreed to have their own assets scrutinised. 'Before the survey, many homes for the elderly had asked if the residents agreed to have a means test on their families. Almost all of them said no,' he said, adding that the survey therefore only asked if they wanted to have their own assets assessed. The association supported the commission's suggestion and said government resources should be allocated to the needy. 'However, we disagree with the commission's idea that the elderly must try community services first before entering homes,' Chan said. Speaking about the standard of service in private homes for the elderly, which have long been criticised, Chan said many of them needed improvements. 'But then we should take a look at the fact that the cost of a government-subsidised bed space is HK$18,000 a month, compared to the price in many private homes of HK$5,000 a month,' Chan said. Lawmakers have been asking the government if it can develop schools that have been closed due to a lack of students into homes for the elderly. Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung wrote to them yesterday, saying the Social Welfare Department had explored the possibility but found no suitable sites.