In an effort to combat its aging population (a phenomenon that seems to be present throughout all of East Asia), the Hong Kong government is now looking at neighboring Guangdong province as a new space to send its elderly population. Because, well, as we all know — it’s truly the “dream” of those who have spent the first 70 years of their lives in Hong Kong to live out their final days in mainland China.
The Financial Times reports, “the scheme will initially be limited to a maximum of 400 places but the need is acute. The average wait of 20-30 months for a place in a residential home [in Hong Kong] means thousands of elderly people die before they ever get one.”
It is projected that Hong Kong’s old people, who are defined as people that are old (or over 65), will make up more than a third of Hong Kong’s population by 2050 (with less than 2 working-age people per old person): With HK’s shortage of land and understandably yet absurdly high property prices, this will assuredly put the city-state in between a rock and a hard place.
But the mainland? Really? Has it really come to this? FT interviewed local Old Person Ng Shui Wing, who has been waiting four years in a typically cramped HK flat to be placed in a subsidized care home, to see how he felt about the idea of moving to Guangdong (hint — he doesn’t like it one bit): “If I went,” he said, “how would I go at my age? How would I go so far?”
Not all of HK’s oldies are as stubborn as Ng Shui Wing – 71-year-old Ng Ping Yiu, for example, had been living in the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation’s home in Shenzhen before the new plan was unveiled. Now, he is recommending the land of milk and honey for his old friends back over the border: “Here, there are mountains, greenery, and flowers…For visiting, it’s not as convenient as Hong Kong, but there’s not that much difference,” he said while most likely also shrugging his shoulders in acquiescence.
A strategically issued quote by Ng Hang-sau, chief executive of the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation, aims at quelling the concerns of its old people, assuring them that no, they will not be kicked out of their homeland: “We’re not forcing the elderly to go to Guangdong or the mainland to grow old…This [scheme] just gives one more option to Hong Kong residents.”
“[But] if they are number 50 on the waiting list and they choose to come to the mainland, they can get a place quite quickly. If they choose not to, they continue to be number 50 on the list.”
Another reason Hong Kong government’s latest scheme has perhaps not been met with a resounding “Huzzah” of support is that mainland China itself has also been dealing with the problem of POP (proliferation of old people) and younger people giving less and less of a shit about them. If there were to be a sudden influx of old HK people crossing the border into mainland China, where would all the old mainland people be subsequently shipped to? Gansu? Inner Mongolia? Xinjiang?
Feel free to post suggestions below on which area should be mainland China’s new equivalent of southwest Florida.
[Image via flickr.com]
By Alex Stevens