Hong Kong is failing its elderly, and they deserve better
- The government’s plan appears to be to offload its problems elsewhere and encourage elderly Hongkongers to retire to mainland cities
- Covid-19 has confirmed that our elderly are seen as burdens instead of human beings who deserve to live happy, rewarding lives regardless of their age
Hong Kong’s first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, having made “care for the elderly” a policy directive, set up the Elderly Commission in 1997 to advise on the formulation of comprehensive policies. Its remit included improving the quality of life for our elderly and providing them with a sense of security, belonging, health and worthiness.
And yet, such figures are apparently not alarming enough. When Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was recently asked about the double whammy of Hong Kong’s declining and ageing population, she said she was not too worried.
Given that they are more susceptible to severe illness or death if they contract Covid-19, it was necessary to ban visits. However, what has really been done to protect them as opposed to merely treating them as a burden on the public health system?
We did not even care enough to encourage vaccinations or make it easier for them to get a jab. Hong Kong’s inoculation rate among the elderly has been described as “the lowest in the world”. That’s disgraceful.
In Singapore, government officials are fretting over raising the vaccination rate for the elderly despite 71 per cent of Singaporeans over 70 having received the vaccine. Teams of volunteers have been deployed to knock on doors and reach out to the remaining 29 per cent, encouraging them to get a shot while addressing their concerns.
Hong Kong’s elderly do not need to be offered what Lam called “better locations to retire”. They deserve more than that. We should be worried about them, not as statistics but as human beings who deserve to live happy, rewarding lives regardless of their age. They are not superfluous and we need to stop making excuses for our failures in addressing their needs.
Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA