July 14, 2011

HONG KONG: Senior citizens are less lavish in daydreams

HONG KONG / The Standard /  July 14, 2011

Wealth dreams of elderly simply matters of joy

Kelly Ip

Many people dream of being rich, perhaps traveling the world in a luxury yacht, a home on The Peak, shopping to their heart's content, and more.

But senior citizens are less lavish in daydreams: time with family and friends, a short trip with a spouse, perhaps recording a song that stirs memories.

Researchers from Pok Oi Hospital and the City University of Hong Kong department of applied social studies interviewed 406 people aged 60 to 90 as part of the "Dreams Come True Projects for the Elderly." It aims to turn dreams into reality by providing subsidies of around HK$5,000 a month.

The survey, which resulted in the "happiness index" of this age group being put at 59.5 out of 100, included 14 dreams. Among them, most wishes were for quality time with family and friends, traveling with spouses and enjoying hobbies.

But it was also found that elderly people met families and friends an average 7.2 times last year.

"The dreams of the elderly are very simple," said Leong Che-hung, chairman of the Elderly Commission and a consultant on the project. "Having a meal with the family makes them happy."

An aging population "is a challenge rather than a problem," he added. "The elderly contributed a lot to Hong Kong when they were young, and we need to express gratitude by fulfilling their dreams."

The "Dream" program has run for a month, with 300 wishes granted. Many have been simple: being pictured with spouses and other family members, their singing recorded, preparing tea for others.

Chan Kiu-tin, 70, imagines an exhibition of his calligraphy, an interest since he was six. "It increases the concentration of children and teenagers," he said, "but few care about calligraphy nowadays. Everyone has a computer. People type rather than write."

Still, hoping to pass on the art to youngsters and offer an interest for other seniors, Chan now teaches calligraphy to 15 students aged from six to 80.

Yau Ling, 76, wants to share the joys of stamps he has been collecting for 50 years. A first-day cover with pride of place is of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. It is autographed by Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister who signed the pact.

The hobby combines culture and national pride, Yau said, "and it fills my heart."

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