Hong Kong's population has aged, and even accelerated on the road to super-ageing. In order to better cope with the trend of aging population, developed regions have introduced the concept of "gerontechnology", hoping to solve the life challenges brought by caring for the elderly through technological innovation, so as to encourage the elderly to age safely at home, improve their well-being and reduce the burden on society. The HKSAR Government does have relevant targets, but due to the inadequacy of supporting policies for ageing at home, and the fact that residential care homes for the elderly have not yet formed an ecosystem that makes good use of technology, "gerontechnology" faces many challenges.
"Gerontechnology" aims to use technological innovation to solve the life challenges brought by caring for the elderly, so as to encourage the elderly to age safely at home, improve their well-being and reduce the burden on society. (Profile picture)
According to the Hong Kong 2021 Population Census Brief Report, the elderly population aged 65 or above exceeded 145.20 million, accounting for 5.2020% of the total population. As early as 65, the Census and Statistics Department indicated that Hong Kong's population will continue to age, with the proportion of the elderly aged 2039 and above rising to 33.3% in 250, and the elderly population exceeding <>.<> million will remain for more than <> years.
However, there have always been many problems with Hong Kong's elderly policy, although the authorities have threatened to take "ageing in place" and "continuous care" as the basic principles to help the elderly to stay in the community as much as possible to enjoy their old age, and only the elderly who are frail and deeply in need of care should receive residential care services, Mok said that the authorities have fundamentally established a universal retirement security system to support the basic living needs of the elderly and reduce the burden of ordinary families for the elderly, even some of the most basic home-based elderly facilities, such as "medical-social cooperation" The local primary medical service system is not yet perfect, and it can be said that the elderly care problem is quite difficult.
As a result, many elderly people still rely heavily on residential care home services for the elderly. For example, as can be seen from the fifth wave of the epidemic after four months, there are problems such as the shortage of dormitory places, long waiting times, too small per capita area and insufficient nursing staff in about 800 residential care homes for the elderly in Hong Kong. In recent years, with the advancement of science and technology, in order to better cope with the trend of aging population, developed regions have introduced the concept of "gerontechnology", hoping to solve the life challenges brought by caring for the elderly through technological innovation, so as to encourage the elderly to age safely at home, improve their well-being and reduce the burden on society.
Due to the shortage of home-based elderly care facilities, many elderly people still rely on residential care homes for the elderly, but the demand for residential places simply exceeds the supply. (Hong Kong 01 Cartography)
The development of gerontechnology has been slow
The HKSAR Government does have the intention to develop gerontechnology. For example, after Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced in her first Policy Address in October 2017 that the Government would set aside $10 billion to promote the development of gerontechnology, the Chief Executive Carrie Lam formally established the I&T Application Fund for Geronting and Rehabilitation in October 10 to subsidise elderly service units to trial and purchase technology products, including products, equipment and tools, mobile applications, training of staff in the use of skills, etc. to enhance the effectiveness and quality of caregiving. In the 2020 Policy Address, Lam also announced the establishment of a "gerontechnology platform" under the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund to facilitate collaboration, and the Fund will later appoint the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) to form a "co-founding agency" in partnership with nine other organisations to design, establish and operate the platform, with a view to enhancing the quality of life and independent living ability of the elderly, and supporting the families, carers, carers and care institutions of the elderly.
In addition, the HKSAR Government has commissioned HKCSS to promote the application of innovation and technology in long-term care services to the industry, co-ordinate and co-ordinate collaboration between all parties, and organise the Gerontechnology Expo Summit every year. Last year, HKCSS launched the Jockey Club-funded Pilot Project on Gerontechnology Education and Rental Services to help the elderly rent suitable geronics equipment, including special function wheelchairs and medical beds. Chan Man Yee, Business Director of HKCSS, said that more than 800 people have benefited from the programme so far, and the HKCSS will continue to think about how to develop an ecosystem suitable for the development of ageing technology services and encourage more stakeholders to participate.
For example, when referring to exhibitions in Japan, Germany and other countries with better pension policies, the HKCSS found that foreign countries have already introduced different types of technology applications in elderly care services, "Foreign elderly people have three treasures for discharge: electric beds, electric wheelchairs and smart home tools, which do not need to stay in elderly care homes, but can live at home." She believes that if gerontechnology projects can subsidize the elderly to use related products, such as beds that help the elderly turn over automatically, they can achieve basic self-care for the elderly.
Chan Man Yi, Business Director of HKCSS, said that in the future, HKCSS will continue to think about how to develop an ecosystem suitable for the development of ageing technology services, and encourage more stakeholders to participate. (Provided by interviewee)
The government has failed to take the lead
However, despite the HKSAR Government's intention to develop and HKCSS actively cooperating with the promotion, the progress of gerontechnology in the past few years has actually been quite slow. Firstly, the application of gerontechnology in Hong Kong had only been discussed three times in the last Legislative Council, and all of them were simple meetings of the Panel on Welfare, the Joint Subcommittee on Long-Term Care Policy and the Subcommittee on Matters Related to Silver Cards. Secondly, at the end of May last year, the Legislative Council Secretariat compiled a document citing government data pointing out that the above-mentioned $5 billion "I&T Application Fund for Ageing and Rehabilitation" will be disbursed successively over five years from 2019 to 2020, but only $970 million was approved in three tranches to subsidise about 4 elderly and rehabilitation service units to purchase or lease more than 200,4 technology products, while as of 29 April this year, the Fund has just completed the seventh tranche of applications. The overwhelming response shows that the authorities need to increase the amount and speed up support.
It is worth mentioning that at present, the Elderly and Rehabilitation Innovation and Technology Application Fund mainly provides services for applications from non-governmental departments, professional groups, industrial and commercial organizations and other institutions, but does not accept applications for personal status, which may underestimate the actual demand; However, the authorities do not appear to have plans to make improvements. At the same time, gerontechnology products are relatively large, but many private residential care homes for the elderly are already trapped in the dilemma of small space for use, and it is difficult to use products effectively. In this regard, the HKSAR Government has no intention of getting involved, but only indicates that the applicant organization can apply with collaborating technology R&D companies to try or modify the relevant products or tailor-made products, and that many R&D companies have considered the environment of local residential care homes for the elderly when designing their products.
In fact, as early as June 2017, HKCSS, together with think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation, jointly released Hong Kong's first gerontechnology report, "Gerontechnology Fact Sheet Report", which listed 6 deficiencies in Hong Kong's gerontechnology ecosystem (table below), including insufficient awareness at the government level, outdated regulation, insufficient funding and talent at the applied research level, procedural barriers and limited support at the prototype development level, limited size of the gerontechnology market, expensive products, and insufficient cooperation among various stakeholders. Four years later, Our Hong Kong Foundation, as one of the collaborating partners of the Gerontechnology Platform co-ordinated by HKCSS, published "Gerontechnology – Building an Ageing Community" at the end of last year to review the effectiveness of various projects, which pointed out that although cognitive problems, risk aversion and research funding have been improved to some extent, most of the above deficiencies have only improved slightly, and three deficiencies are showing signs of deterioration, including insufficient retirement security, lack of incentives for academics to engage in gerontechnology research, and and complex medical device registration procedures.
Looking at the SAR Government's response attitude and even the implementation of thinking, to some extent, it also reflects why the development of gerontechnology has not made much breakthrough. First of all, the authorities do not seem to have a thorough understanding of the huge potential of gerontechnology to improve the lives of the elderly, naturally do not think deeply about how it can effectively cope with the challenges of population ageing, and have not accurately defined the nature of gerontechnology as a public service or an innovation and technology product, so they have failed to play a leading role, and there is no clear development strategy for gerontechnology from the macro to the micro level, but regard it as a new thing in the variety of elderly care services, and are willing to allocate very few resources to introduce some technologies. It is then handed over to social welfare organizations to promote on behalf of the society to prove to the society that a certain amount of resources have been invested, but in fact it has not solved too many problems; Secondly, in the process of promoting the development of gerontechnology, it is no wonder that the popularity of gerontechnology is limited, even though different stakeholders have complained to the Government about various difficulties in using it, the authorities are neither willing to proactively streamline the travel process to facilitate more people in need to apply, nor actively improve the narrow space of service establishments such as residential care homes for the elderly. In addition, gerontechnology is an important part of smart cities, but Hong Kong society has been chanting the slogan of "digital transformation" for many years, but it still lacks the soil for development and has not formed an ecosystem that makes good use of technology.
As early as June 2017, HKCSS and Think Tank Our Hong Kong Foundation jointly released Hong Kong's first gerontechnology report, "Gerontechnology Overview Report", which listed 6 shortcomings of the gerontechnology ecosystem in Hong Kong. (Screenshot of report)