The “Silver Market” – A burden or new growth engine for Hong Kong?  

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Hong Kong is in need to create a more age-friendly environment in order to better manage the uprising “Silver Tsunami” phenomenon, according to experts from both business and public sectors.  

Speaking at the launch ceremony of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s “Age-friendly City Partnership Scheme” on Thursday, the panelists, including CEO and chairman of the Centaline Group Shih Wing-ching, chairman of the Elderly Commission Dr Lam Ching-choi and Leong Cheung, executive director of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said it is time for the government, the business sector, and citizens to come together and develop a more age-friendly culture in Hong Kong’s community.  

Hong Kong is facing an ageing population with the current elderly population standing at about 1.1 million. According to the latest government’s forecast, the city’s population would reach 8.2 million in 2040 with about 2.5 million of them being elders aged 65 or above.  

Experts believe the challenges of ageing population are very real and proper care for the elderly to help them extending their healthy and active years of life are essential.  

“Compared to decades before, older people nowadays have higher education levels and awareness, and as such they have the needs to connect to the society more, and that they feel like they can still contribute to the society. It is important that we don’t just simply provide resources to them, but also turn them from “recipients” to “participants”. This would be healthier for them, both physically and mentally, and the society can benefit from it too,” said Leong Cheung. 

To step up effort to tackle such challenges, The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust is now expanding its Age-friendly City Project, which was launched in 2015, to encourage various business and public sectors to create an age-friendly environment.  

The newly launched scheme is an extension to a project funded with HK$190 million from the Jockey Club Trust and aims to arouse public awareness and to encourage respect and appreciation for the older people, the Hong Kong Jockey Club said on its website.  

“If you look at other countries in Asia, they have a much higher elderly employment ratio. Hong Kong is falling behind in this regard and I often find this puzzling. I see local employers complaining how difficult it is to hire talents, but yet they are reluctant to hire older people, who are usually abundant in knowledge and experience,” said Dr Lam Ching-choi. “Retirement is not necessary healthy for elderly. As life expectancy continuing to rise, retirement age should also be extended. Do people really need to retire so early and rest for 20 years?” 

The “Silver Tsunami” phenomenon might also present huge business opportunities. Using Japan as example, panelists said Hong Kong should “adjust its thinking” and look into the elderly market.  

“This is a huge market and there are so much business opportunities,” said Albert Wong, CEO of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation. “More and more technologies are coming out to improve elderly’s life qualities. For example, there are beds that turn into wheelchair, and AI-enhanced robots that could talk to older people.” 

“In some countries, one third of their GDP is related to elderly business. However, if you take a closer look in Hong Kong, taking shopping malls as examples– they are all tailored to younger adults. There are no chairs or seating areas, and the lighting is just get the feeling the whole design is targeted at the younger markets only,” said Dr Lam. 

The government plays a critical role to engage different stakeholders to adopt age-friendly practices in the city, Shih Wing-ching said.  

“if I am being completely honest here, it is not realistic to expect a businessman to simply give up their profit to help elderly for free. The government needs to provide more incentive to the business sector. Once that happens, I am sure all sorts of technologies and utilities for the older generations would appear in the city.” 

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