People Stories

Positive Ageing & Elderly Care

Warmth in the pocket

As the pandemic wore on, it became apparent to Tammy Leung, Elderly Services Director at the Aberdeen Kai-fong Welfare Association, that many elderly people urgently needed to get their own smartphones. In December 2021, it became mandatory to use the LeaveHomeSafe app to dine in at restaurants as the government sought to improve contact tracing as part of a tightening of anti-pandemic measures.

“Many poor elderly folks don’t own a smartphone. Without one, their daily routines and social life are seriously disrupted,” Leung said.

Prompt to take action, The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust partnered with 12 non-government organisations and four mobile network service providers to launch the Jockey Club Digital Support Project for the Elderly. Eligible elderly persons each received a smartphone with a year-long data plan. Social workers have also provided them with ‘user training’. Around 20,000 underprivileged elderly people will benefit from the project.

“Elderly people don’t typically get the hang of a smartphone after just a few tries, especially if they don’t have children to show them how to navigate one,” Leung said. “Social welfare organisations like ours have a duty to follow up and make sure the elderly are able to use a smartphone.”

After mastering the LeaveHomeSafe app, many elderly people are eager to learn more, such as how to check the weather forecasts and real-time traffic information. Others have learned to make video calls with their children abroad.

“I have witnessed many touching stories. We are talking not just about a mobile phone, but a device that can make the elderly feel cared for and allows them to connect with our community.”

Leung said that many participants in the Jockey Club Digital Support Project for the Elderly are seniors who live on their own or in an elderly household of two. Faced with the strains of the pandemic, they need company and attention even more than before. In October 2020, the Club launched the Jockey Club Support Project for the Elderly under COVID-19 to specifically address their needs, providing them with medical escort assistance and daily necessities, as well as health support services and “care calls”.

Equally, care home residents need extra attention. In September 2020, the Club’s Charities Trust started a pilot programme to help 25 residential care homes for the elderly (“RCHEs”) buy equipment to enhance their safety and infection control. Three months later, the Trust launched the Jockey Club Facilities Enhancement Scheme for Pandemic Preparedness at Residential Care Homes which offered a one-off subsidy to all RCHEs, residential care homes for persons with disabilities (“RCHDs”) and nursing homes (“NHs”) subvented by the Social Welfare Department. The fresh subsidy has been used to buy equipment such as air purifiers, disinfection machines, UV disinfection machines and temperature detectors. Together with the pilot programme, the Trust’s funding for the scheme totals HK$243 million. In response to the current fifth wave of Covid-19 outbreaks, the scheme has been swiftly expanded, enabling RCHEs, NHs and RCHDs with coronavirus patients to buy high-efficiency air purifiers and HEPA filters.