Full backing for better services

LEGISLATORS voted unanimously to call on the Government to improve welfare services for the elderly.

Independent Eric Li Ka-cheung said the Government should maintain the existing basic criterion of allowing people aged 60 or above access to the services.

The Government proposed in its working group report on care for the elderly that the basic minimum age for elderly services be raised to 65.

However, the Government has said those between 60 to 64 would also be eligible for such services if it was proved that they were in need of them.

Democratic Party legislator Fred Li Wah-ming said the Government had ignored the needs of the 240,000 people who were between 60 and 64.

He said that because there were not enough elderly services, the interests of those between 60 and 64 would be sacrificed first if the basic minimum age for such services was set at 65.

The Liberal Party supported the motion, which also demanded the Government speed up the development of health centre services for the elderly and the establishment of a central committee on services for the aged.

But party legislator Dr Lam Kui-chun said that as public health improved, the medical profession believed only those over 65 should be considered elderly.

Secretary for Health and Welfare Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching said those between 60 and 64 would have access to services if they needed them.

Counselling and support services for the elderly are woefully inadequate resulting in an increase in suicides among people over 60, a leading sociologist warned.

Dr John Tse Wing-ling of the City University of Hong Kong called on the Government to provide more services for people suffering emotional crises. He said more than 700 elderly people committed suicide last year, up from 579 in 1988.