The number of people aged 60 years and overgrow is estimated to grow over the next few years. In Hong Kong, the number of people aged 65 or older will reach 2.58 million by 2064, equivalent to more than a third of the city’s current population, OpenGov Asia reported in October 2019.
While the city currently has the highest life expectancy in the world – 84.3 years – and reflects an impressive healthcare system, this means that older people tend to rely rather heavily on healthcare services.
The challenge is enabling them to live independent active lives, within the means of the taxpayer and their extended families.
Recently, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) led 29 Park companies to showcase their latest innovations at the Gerontech and Innovation Expo cum Summit (GIES) 2019.
The event was co-hosted by the HKSAR Government and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and co-organised by HKSTP for the third consecutive year.
GIES is the only Gerontech fair in Hong Kong and aims to promote the application of innovative technologies and ideas to enhance the quality of life for the elderly.
HKSTP hosted one of the largest pavilions at GIES this year, where 29 participating Park companies displayed cross-disciplinary innovations and solutions ranging from assistive equipment, predictive applications, early diagnostics devices, smart wearables to health monitoring platforms, with the theme of “Tech-empowered Healthy Ageing”.
All exhibited innovations, incorporating various technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), sensor and big data analytics, represent a medal for excellence in elderly care, in-home support, treatment and rehabilitation services.
In light of the fast-ageing population and an increase in the demand for public healthcare services, Healthy Ageing is one of HKSTP’s core technology focus areas. By co-organising GIES, HKSTP strives to provide a platform for Park companies to engage in intimate dialogue and collaboration with stakeholders in the ecosystem, in pursuit of new business opportunities and partnership. At present, over a hundred of Park companies work in tandem to develop practical healthcare applications and solutions, in a bid to make Hong Kong an elderly-friendly city.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that the Hong Kong government earmarked HK$1 billion to procure, rent and trial new technology products that promise to improve the lives of elderly people.
Engaging Senior Citizens
A member of Hong Kong’s senior population became interested in how gerontechnology can help improve the quality of life for older adults. She joined the Gerontechnology Practitioner Training Course under Lingnan University’s Gerontechnology & Smart Ageing Project.
The course targets elderly people and caregivers. It introduces them to devices that help seniors get around with ease and live more independent lives.
An example is the smart walking stick which is equipped with senior-worthy features like a flashlight with an adjustable safety light, a siren for emergency use and a radio.
The citizen said the course allows her to learn more about gerontechnology in her free time. After class, knowledge can be shared with others who have no idea about this new technology.
Leaning on the Youth
Gerontechnology has also opened up career opportunities for young people.
A marketing major and graduate from Lingnan University set up a social enterprise called Gatherly in 2018. The platform provides a platform for the elderly to teach other people handicraft skills and helps them to sell their products online.
She discovered that her social enterprise would need to change every two years according to market demands. For example, fabric bags are popular among youngsters. While the elderly at Gatherly are equipped with blue-dye techniques, she can make use of their skills to create products that match the market situation.
In this way, Hong Kong is finding new and innovative ways to inclusively care for its elderly members, making the effort community-driven and collaborative.