A Stay-at-Home Project for the Elderly

A Stay-at-Home Project for the Elderly

(from left) Dr Ernest Chui, Dr Vivian Lou and Dr Terry Lum

"Ageing in place" is a concept that has been embraced around the world to enable the elderly to live in their own homes for as long as possible regardless of their abilities. In most developed countries, about three to four per cent of elderly require residential nursing care, but in Hong Kong the figure is 6.8%. A project by HKU's Sau Po Centre on Ageing (CoA) is helping to give more elderly a chance to remain at home for longer.

Working with the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS), CoA director Dr Terry Lum and his team have developed a model that aims to empower the community and move away from simply addressing deficits, as exemplified by such practices as taking the elderly away from their communities for health care and social care services.

"HKHS understood the need to change the scope of the services they offer to meet the needs of their rapidly aging tenant population. However, there was no working model of aging-in-place for low-income elders in Hong Kong," Dr Lum said.

"We want to see care in the community, by the community – to empower neighbours and people living on housing estates to wrap around the elderly and support them. People there stay in those estates a long time, some having been there 30 or 40 years, so they have a very strong community network," he said.

The model developed by Dr Lum's team involves modifying homes where possible to account for wheelchairs and other mobility needs, bringing services such as exercise programmes and dementia care programmes to where people live, and organising volunteer services and social activities. A hub also needs to be provided for volunteers, health checks by nurses, and the like, which is feasible because there are premises on housing estates that were used for kindergartens, or that are rented out to commercial firms.

The HKHS adopted this approach in a pilot project at Cho Yiu Chuen, a housing estate in Kwai Chung, in 2012, and the results have been highly positive. It now plans to extend the model to 11 estates and has invited the CoA to participate in its implementation and assessment.

"We want older people in public housing to be able to stay there for as long as possible, so they won't have to move out if they have a low degree of disability or frailty," Dr Lum said. "We want these estates to be not just a place to live, but a place to receive care, and a place they can really call home regardless of their abilities."

"The elderly would gain a better quality of life, and society would gain, too, because currently the government covers most of the costs of residential homes for the elderly," he added.

Dr Terry Y. S. Lum and team members, Dr Vivian W. Q. Lou and Dr Ernest W. T. Chui, received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2014 of the Faculty of Social Sciences for 'Promoting Ageing-in-Place for Elderly Tenant in Rental Housing Estates of Hong Kong Housing Society'.