Prof. Amy Chow Yin Man
Associate Professor, Department of Social Work
and Social Administration, HKU
The major difference between ageing issues today and that a decade ago is the social background of the ageing population; in the past not many of the ageing population were highly-educated and most elderly people let their children make decisions for them, while in the last decade we see the emergence of self-reliant senior citizens who fight for themselves for a higher standard of living. Another difference lies in the interdisciplinary perspective. When it comes to ageing, we used to talk only about the role doctors play; now we talk about collaboration between the medical professionals and staff of residential care homes, occupational therapists, physical therapists, dieticians and the like. This is a good thing, as we no longer see elderly care as separate tasks but a cooperative effort. Having said that, we are facing a major challenge. Spending their adult years as accomplished, welleducated members of society, future elders may find it hard to let go of a once active life when they face inevitable deterioration and illness. How will they reconcile with the fact that they are far from their younger selves? As the formal care system is moving towards professionalisation and technologicalisation, the cost will be higher and the target group it serves will be smaller. This is where informal support networks and community education come in, letting everyone understand that we are all going to get old, and we have a part to play. With everyone as our target audience, it takes a mobilised society where everyone makes a difference. Maybe a housewife prepares one more potion of a meal for the singleton elder next door; retirees pairing up to be volunteers⋯ and it takes a group of initiators of catalysing bottom-up mobilisation.