August 1, 2011

HONG KONG: Relax residency rules, say elderly

HONG KONG / The Standard / News / August 1, 2011

Poor medical services in mainland China major deterrent for Hong Kong seniors

By Samson Lee

Nearly one in every five senior citizens plans to settle in the mainland and more will consider doing so if the government relaxes the residential qualification for old age allowances, or so-called "fruit money," a survey shows.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong interviewed 508 people aged 60 or above between July 21 and 26. Nearly half of them are receiving the old age allowance of HK$1,035 a month. Of these, 18 percent said they would prefer to settle in the mainland because of the lower cost of living (48 percent) and the better living environment (21 percent), or to stay with relatives (27 percent).

A group of elderly Chinese relax in a park in Hong Kong. Illustration by courtesy: acclaimimages 

The biggest concerns about moving across the border are the poor quality of medical services (29 percent), losing the old age allowance (16 percent ) and inability to adapt to life there (16 percent).

Of the 416 who have not considered settling in the mainland, 26 percent said they will think about it if the residential qualification is relaxed.

DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung called on the government to relax the qualification and to work with mainland authorities to provide a medical insurance program for senior citizens who have settled across the border so that they do not need to return to Hong Kong for treatment.

"Under the current system, the elderly need to stay in Hong Kong for [at least] 60 days to get the allowance," he said. "But can we amend that so that those who are here for less than 60 days can still get the allowance while in the mainland?"

An 83-year-old man, surnamed Lam, said he bought a flat in Dongguan, Guangdong province, early this year so that he and his wife, 81, can enjoy their twilight years. He hopes the government will relax the residential requirement.

"The fruit money is pocket money. Without it, I may need to rely on my children who have emigrated to Canada," he said.

The DAB said it will meet with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Wednesday to discuss elderly welfare for the 2012 policy address.

© 2011 The Standard
Credit: Reports and photographs are property of owners of intellectual rights.
Seniors World Chronicle, a not-for-profit, serves to chronicle and widen their reach.