Part I: The Fixed Period ends in Shenzhen: Aging in the Greater Bay Area

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Hong Kong, you ain’t getting any younger.

Anthony Trollope’s 1881 serial (published as a book in 1882) posited a world where men and women, at the age of 67 were sent to a beautiful necropolis to enjoy a blissful one year – before being killed on their 68th birthday.

The Fixed Period posited a mandatory, government enforced end at 68, a very old age indeed for Trollope’s contemporaries.

How old?!

Now, Hong Kong government figures show that life expectancies for women and men have increased to 87.7 years and 81.7 years, respectively.

The number of people aged 65 or above will also double from 1.16 million from 2016 to 2.37 million in 2036. Fifty years from now, the number will be 2.59 million, representing one-third of the total population.

As the Greater Bay Area (GBA) promotes the free flow of capital, people and goods, the government is also suggesting a flow of elderly people from Hong Kong to a new necropolis, the Greater Bay Area, to meet their needs that will outstrip the resources Hong Kong can or is willing to provide.

As of May 2018, 38,724 elders were on the waiting list for a place at the subsidized care homes, which can only accommodate 32,394 elders. Last year, nearly 5,000 elders died waiting for their time to come to enter a home.

Hong Kong healthcare model in GBA

Mr Lam Ching-choi, chairman of the Elderly Commission, suggests setting up a special zone for healthcare in the GBA, as there is not enough manpower and land for elderly care in Hong Kong.

The zone would adopt the Hong Kong-style healthcare system and practices and have access to medication available in Hong Kong.

This is similar to the “Hong Kong City” idea from the policy centre Business Professionals in Hong Kong, which proposes to build a community designed for Hong Kong citizens to guarantee them the same quality of life in the GBA.

After all, it’s a trusting issue.

“We need to reassure the elderly that the healthcare they receive in the GBA would be the one they have been using and trusting,” Mr Lam says.

What Mr Lam is advocating is already happening in Huizhou, a mainland city five hours from Hong Kong.

Situated at Country Garden Silver Beach in Huidong, CP Homes is a nursing home run by Hong Kong businessmen to provide Hong Kong-style care services. It is now providing 556 places and more than 10 Hong Kong elders have already settled in.

Mr Samuel Cheung, CEO of CP Homes, says Hong Konger’s low confidence in China’s healthcare is the reason for the demand.

“After all, the healthcare system and standard in both places are different,” Mr Cheung says.

He says CP Homes hires Hong Kong private doctors to provide consultation in Huidong from time to time, provides Hong Kong-style training to its staff and has joined the Hospital Authority’s e-health record sharing system.

“We plan to reserve one-third of the beds for Hong Kongers and charge them around $12,500 per month, similar to what the subsidized homes would charge. We are helping those who are still on the waiting list,” he says.

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