'Effect of pandemic on the elders still unknown' - RTHK
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'Effect of pandemic on the elders still unknown'

2020-08-07 HKT 13:48
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  • The Elderly Commission chairman says many senior citizens may feel a greater sense of loneliness these days because of the restrictions imposed to prevent coronavirus outbreaks. Photo: RTHK
    The Elderly Commission chairman says many senior citizens may feel a greater sense of loneliness these days because of the restrictions imposed to prevent coronavirus outbreaks. Photo: RTHK
Damon Pang reports
Elderly Commission chairman Lam Ching-choi on Friday warned that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the elderly in Hong Kong may not have surfaced yet, adding that in many developed countries the situation has led to a rise in a suicides among older people.

Speaking at an elderly forum, Lam said in countries like the US, suicide rates among the elderly have climbed as their lives were seriously affected by the pandemic and lockdown measures.

Lam, who is a medical practitioner and an executive councillor, pointed out that many elderly people may feel more lonely now because of the restrictions implemented to prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

He said IT could play a vital role in helping these elderly people but said Hong Kong was way behind on this and cited the public hospitals as an example.

The current public hospital system can be said to be of “zero technology”, he said, and people are still forced to wait for a long time in the same place to get their medicine.

Lam also said neighbouring Macau is able to provide better facilities as care homes for the elderly and urged Hong Kong society to reflect on the shortcomings.

The chairman of the Elderly Services Association, Kenneth Chan, also said at the seminar that the environment of residential care homes in Hong Kong is poor and he is worried that there will be more coronavirus cases in these facilities.

He said that the industry manages the institutions according to the manpower standards required by the government and hires many casual workers. He said the situation needs to be reviewed.

Chan also called for the use of technology to overcome difficulties people face during the epidemic, like video calls to let family members know about the situation of care home residents.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan told the event that the government attaches great importance to elderly care and has spent HK$87.4 billion on this, accounting for 20 percent of the government's recurrent expenditure.