Celebrating Christmas with the elderly
Christmas is just around the corner, together with colleagues from the Development Bureau, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. During this festive season, wouldn’t it be wonderful to take some time out of our busy schedule to spread joy, love and care to the people around us? Earlier on, I visited an elderly centre with Mr Liu Chun-san, the Under Secretary for Development and Mr Allen Fung, the Political Assistant and spent a joyful morning together playing games, doing arts and crafts and chit-chatting with the elderly people.
The Po Leung Kuk Sai Ying Pun Home for the Elderly cum Day Care Centre for the Elderly is located in the Western District. Apart from providing a comfortable living environment, the centre offers diversified day care services and one-stop residential and nursing care for the elderly. During our visit, the “old pals” were very smart and energetic and we all had a good time playing together. I am glad that the community is provided with such excellent supporting facilities where the elderly can stay healthy and enjoy their life.
Building an elderly-friendly city
The elderly have contributed to society for many years. It is our society’s common responsibility and aspiration to figure out how to create a liveable and high quality living environment for the elderly, and building a caring city for them to enjoy old age. We must make holistic arrangement and long term planning to prepare for the challenge of an ageing population. Building an elderly-friendly city to let our senior citizens enjoy old age, providing them with old age protection and encouraging them to continue to integrate and take part in society, all these will help in enhancing the quality of their lives and promoting “Active Ageing” for the elderly.
On the front of town planning, it is necessary for us to make preparation in advance and plan for suitable ancillary facilities adapted to the needs of a rapidly growing elderly population. This includes reserving space for elderly homes and day care centres at the planning development stage, improving the overall quality of public space to enable the elderly to relax and stretching out in a safe environment and get together with other “old pals”; providing proper and safe facilities at pedestrian crossings to facilitate barrier-free access for the elderly; and promoting the adoption of the “universal design” in public and private housing which is more accommodating to elderly tenants.
At the same time, we will also try to incorporate “active design” considerations into the community to promote physical activities and health through responsive urban design and building design by promoting walking, cycling, exercising and a healthy lifestyle. Quality twilight years hinges on happiness, good health and longevity, improving people’s health in general is therefore, the key to creating a high-quality life in old age.
Stepping up urban renewal
Apart from an ageing population, Hong Kong is also faced with the problem of an ageing building stock which poses challenges to urban regeneration. Assuming no demolition of buildings from now on, there will be an estimated 326 000 private residential units aged 70 years or above by 2046, which is about 300 times of that in 2015. The figure is astronomical indeed. When you factor in that old private residential buildings are mostly concentrated in the urban areas, the estimated figure of private units aged 70 years or above in Yau Tsim Mong District will be more than 60 000 by 2046. Having said that, we will not underestimate the difficulties involved in redevelopment of old buildings as we would have to deal with the problem of fragmented ownership as well as reserving adequate land for relocation of affected households.
Similar to other developed cities, Hong Kong needs urban renewal to create a higher quality environment for our people and improve the city’s liveability. Hong Kong has a large stock of old buildings and the Government will continue to strengthen the policies and step up the efforts on urban renewal and building rehabilitation. “Operation Building Bright 2.0” (OBB 2.0), for instance, will focus on helping the more needy owner-occupiers of old buildings. Under OBB 2.0, elderly owner-occupiers aged 60 years or above may be eligible for a full subsidy of the costs of undertaking repair works. In this way, we hope that we can expedite urban renewal and revitalisation of old buildings.
In future, we will have to tackle the acute “double-ageing” problem of our population and building stocks and put our determination to resolve society’s problems to the test. Added with the challenges of insufficient land to cope with the pressing demand for housing and commercial development, there can be no let up on efforts to increase land supply. The tasks are undoubtedly arduous but we will make an all-out effort to accomplish our goals.
As it is Christmas Eve today, once again, may I wish you all good health, peace and happiness! In the coming year, let’s go hand in hand to cultivate Hong Kong into a better place to live and work, and an even more caring and inclusive city.
24 December, 2017