Hong Kong’s first landscape study on gerontechnology – a scientific field combining the study of ageing and technology – has found that not enough is being done to support the use of technological products for the elderly in the city
The study, funded by the government’s Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund, reviewed 72 products and services which could be widely used by Hong Kong’s elderly population. It also identified 24 reasons why gerontechnological products have not been widely adopted here.
The obstacles included lack of public awareness of the role of technology in elderly care, insufficient funding for local start-ups,weak collaboration between different stakeholders and lack of testing grounds for new products.
“Our start of using technological products for elderly services in Hong Kong was slower than in other countries,” said Chua Ho-wai, chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, which jointly conducted the study with Our Hong Kong Foundation.
“Usually, people think of manpower and finance when talking about ageing in place, but they seldom consider technology too,” said Kenny Shui Chi-wai, the foundation’s senior researcher and one of the study’s authors.
For example, the elderly health care voucher, which provides HK$2,000 a year for medical services and products, cannot be used to purchase technology products.
A smart textile designed to protect people from injury in case of accidents was also more widely used in the sports sector than for elderly care.
Funding to support the local development of innovative products was also deemed insufficient. “Our total R&D in percentage of GDP is not enough. We have some good seeds, but not enough,” said Stephen Wong Yuen-shan, the foundation’s deputy executive director and head of its public policy institute.
While the government has earmarked HK$10 billion to support innovation and development and set upa HK$2 billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund, these moves do not specifically target the needs of the elderly.
The situation is beginning to change though – in mid-June, Hong Kong held its first Gerontech and Innovation Expo, which saw over 40,000 visitors explore exhibits from around the world, introducing the attendees to the many commercial opportunities presented by servicing the needs of an ageing population.
Adapted with permission from the South China Morning Post