Living in one of the city’s notorious subdivided flats is bad enough, but cleaner Lam Wai-kau has spent more than a decade in a tiny “loft” subdivided from a subdivided flat. Lam’s Sham Shui Po home takes the form of a cockloft hanging above the carved-up spaces at the end of a narrow corridor. The 66-year-old works seven days a week cleaning a public housing estate and has just three or four days off a year. To reach his stark cell, Lam climbs a precarious makeshift ladder made out of a wooden box and a few old planks stacked on a rusty iron stand. Then he pushes himself through a small hole cut out of the wooden ceiling to access his living space above. Inside, the cement ceiling is so low that Lam cannot sit up straight. The place he has called home since 2005 is less than 80 sq ft and costs a few hundred dollars a month in rent. “The environment is terrible, but it’s cheap,” explains Lam with a shrug. While Lam, who is waiting for a public housing flat, hopes that the government can do more in terms of giving elderly people a better safety net after retirement, he is not sure if anything will actually change in reality. “This it is the lot for us lesser human beings, who have neither education nor culture. We aren’t that important,” he says. None of the initiatives mentioned in Leung Chun-ying’s policy address last week to make neighbourhoods more “elderly friendly” – such as longer pedestrian green-light signals, seats at bus stops and bigger public toilets – are of any help to Lam. He still has to climb the four flights of stairs every day to his small home. “I’m not against [Leung’s] initiatives, but they are of no consequence to me ... very little impact on my life,” says Lam, one of the growing army of elderly Hongkongers forced to work after the age of 65 in order to survive. Leung also mentioned a scheme launched in 2013 where the government provides free consultations to elderly who live in private housing on how to make their homes safer. Again, Lam, as a tenant, does not benefit. He says he has become “used to poverty” and spends very little of his HK$8,000 monthly pay. “I’m still healthy so I try to work as much as I can. One day I may not be able to do this work anymore and I’ll have to get on welfare,” he says. For elderly people like Lam, retirement protection is key, says Oxfam Hong Kong’s programme manager Wong Shek-hung, who expresses strong disappointment in the policy address. “There were few words on retirement protection,” says Wong, adding that cosmetic enhancements in the blueprint policy failed to address the needs of the ageing population.