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Elderly parents of HK emigrants endure loneliness, depression

The emotional health of the elderly has deteriorated following the departure of their children, survey finds
An elderly woman participate in a dumpling-wrapping event in Hong Kong on June 9.

An elderly woman participates in a dumpling-wrapping event in Hong Kong on June 9. (Photo: Hong Kong Christian Service)

Published: June 11, 2024 07:19 AM GMT
Updated: June 11, 2024 12:22 PM GMT

Nearly 80 percent of elderly people left behind in Hong Kong after their families emigrated have experienced social isolation and almost 70 percent showed tendencies towards depression, says a survey.

The social well-being and emotional health of the elderly have deteriorated following the emigration of their children, the survey found.

It was carried out among 50 selected elderly people by the charity organization, Hong Kong Christian Service (HKCS) last year, the group said on June 9 while revealing the survey's findings during a dumpling-wrapping event.

The event, a collaboration between the Hong Kong and China Gas Company Limited (Towngas) and HKCS, saw more than 50 elderly people making rice dumplings and celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival together with the support of volunteers.

The festival is a traditional Chinese holiday held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar.

Listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Humanity by UNESCO in 2009, the festival features sporting events such as dragon races, dragon boating and willow shooting.

The dumpling event sought to tackle emotional stress of the elderly through experiencing the joy of making rice dumplings, HKCS said.

It allowed elderly people to feel the warmth of the festival and enhance their sense of happiness in the presence of a large number of people.

Grandma Chan, who lives alone, found the dumpling-wrapping event lively and enjoyable, saying, “During festivals, when my children are not in Hong Kong, I feel particularly lonely. This year, making dumplings together with a big group of people, chatting and laughing, was wonderful. I appreciate the volunteers and the other elderly friends who collaborated with me on making the dumplings. I feel especially happy.”

The company is committed to offering support to various groups in society, particularly focusing on the well-being of the elderly, said Felix Lee Kin-ming, Towngas Head of Group Corporate Affairs.

“HKCS has launched the ‘Community Helper - Support for Elders with Emigrant Family’ program to help them adapt to life changes and improve their quality of life, which aligns perfectly with Towngas’ philosophy. Therefore, we hope to continue collaborating with HKCS to provide multifaceted support for the elderly with emigrant families and fill the gap in social care,” he said.

“Elderly people face life changes when their children emigrate abroad. It is crucial to join hands with partners across various sectors to weave a community support network and provide companionship to help them adapt to these changes,” said Karrie Chan, Deputy Director (Elderly, Rehabilitation & Community) of HKCS.

While Hong Kong faces a demographic crisis due to a low birth rate and a rising elderly population, the issue has been further compounded by political upheaval in the former British colony.

Beijing imposed its repressive National Security Law in 2020 to crush all forms of dissent following massive, often violent 2019 pro-democracy protests.

Dozens of pro-democracy politicians, supporters and activists have been arrested and jailed. Hundreds of Hong Kongers have fled the city to avoid persecution and settled in other countries such as Britain, which handed the territory back to China in 1997 under an agreement that was meant to ensure greater autonomy, basic rights and freedoms.

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