IT solutions wanted for HK's 'ageing tsunami'
Start-ups can promote their latest IT products for the sizable elderly market, as Hong Kong prepares for an "ageing tsunami" in the coming decades, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said.
Law said the city has 224,000 elderly citizens aged 85 and above with the number rising to 836,000 in 40 years. He said an elderly IT platform -- Gerontechnology -- has seen many start-ups including a company developing artificial bones matched with users for trials and tests of their products.
Writing in his blog on Sunday, Law said although the number of elderly citizens aged 85 will only go up slightly to 270,000 in 10 years, it will double to 550,000 in 20 years, and further surge to 836,000 in 40 years.
He said the city should prepare for challenges to the public health system and elderly care service, including providing technology support to service providers, and enhancing quality of life and self-reliance of elderly in the community.
“The government has to work with non-governmental organizations, research institutions and the whole innovative industry chain, with the power of the market, in facing the challenges of the coming ageing tsunami efficiently,” Law said.
He said authorities have been cooperating with the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and the Hong Kong Science Park, in organizing the annual gerontech and innovation expo cum summit since 2017.
The expo, which ended on Saturday, gathered some 31,000 visitors and over 160 exhibitors showcasing more than 600 elderly IT products and solutions.
Products included companion dolls and robots and mobility-aid appliances, in assisting elderly service operators in taking care of the elderly such as providing companions and emotional support.
Some tools came with anti-wander functions, fall detection and aids in bathing, toileting and feeding, which can ease the workload of care home staffers.
An exhibitor, Gerontechnology Platform, is a one-stop elderly IT platform founded by the HKCSS and nine more organizations, and funded by the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund. It pairs healthcare service operators to product developers.
Law quoted a founder of a local start-up, which develops exoskeleton and has a factory in Shenzhen. The founder told Law that the platform has allowed them to get in touch with the users, which has helped them in testing and improving their products.
Law said the government has also approved over HK$380 million under the Innovation and Technology Fund for Application in Elderly and Rehabilitation Care since December 2018.
The fund has been subsidizing some 1,300 elderly and rehabilitation care units in purchasing or borrowing technology products, lessening the workload of healthcare workers, he said.
He hoped more innovators could look at the development in elderly IT, with the synergy from Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area, in building a sizable silver market in the future.