Ageing society

Green light for plan allowing more Hongkongers to ‘age in place’

Districts will set ratios for elderly facilities and people will be encouraged to join contributory savings schemes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 10:25pm

The government says it will implement recommendations in the city’s first master plan for elderly services, including setting a district-based ratio for facilities and identifying sites at residential developments in advance to meet soaring demand.

The plan also urged the government to look into contributory savings schemes such as long-term care insurance to relieve the financial strain caused by the rapidly ageing population.

A spokesman for the Labour and Welfare Bureau said: “The [plan] reaffirms our existing policy of ‘ageing in place as the core, institutional care as back-up’.”

Every estate should have care facilities for seniors, Hong Kong’s first full elderly services plan proposes

The Elderly Services Programme Plan, formulated by the Elderly Commission after public consultation, identified the key challenges as a surge in service demand coupled with a shrinking workforce and fewer family carers; an expectation of more choice among the elderly and autonomy in using services; and the need for increasing expenditure.

So the commission focused on ways to encourage “ageing-in-place” – allowing the elderly to exercise their choice to live and age in a familiar environment – and ensure financial sustainability.

The plan proposed reinstating planning ratios, scrapped in 2003, for community centres and resident care facilities in urban planning guidelines and reviewing these regularly, perhaps every five years, to reflect demographic changes.

The commission suggested building one neighbourhood elderly centre – which would provide community support like meal services and slow the admission rate into homes for the elderly – in each new public housing estate as well as in new private developments with 15,000 to 20,000 people.

For each new residential area with a population of 170,000, the commission recommended a district elderly community centre, which would provide similar services on a larger scale.

Hong Kong’s ageing time bomb a cause for concern

In terms of residential care services, such as nursing homes, the plan proposed having 21.4 beds per 1,000 people aged 65 or above, which translates into a target total supply of around 46,200 beds by 2026.

For community care services, including those for helping elderly persons with moderate or severe impairment to remain in the community, the commission set a target of 14.8 places per 1,000 people aged 65 or above, translating into around 32,100 places by 2026.

More detailed service statistics should be collected to be taken into account in future planning reviews and updates, it said.

In terms of manpower, the plan said the government should explore ways to attract part-time workers to train as care workers and a more flexible importation of labour.

It also suggested that contributory savings schemes such as long-term care insurance would encourage long-term planning and preparation.

The bureau spokesman said the HK$30 billion earmarked by the government from the fiscal reserves in this year’s budget to enhance elderly services and rehabilitation services for the disabled would be helpful in implementing the recommendations.

Official figures show that the number of people aged 65 and above will increase from 1.1 million, or 15.3 per cent of the population, in 2015 to 2.5 million – 30.6 per cent of the population – in 2043. The number is expected to rise to almost 2.6 million – or 35.9 per cent of the population – in 2064.