The Future of Aging in Hong Kong

 A research project by Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Illinois Institute of Technology. We collaborated with PolyU, RCA and key administrators by creating an immersive innovation space and facilitating four workshops to frame a long-term strategy plan for the aging population in Hong Kong.

In this role, I co-led research activities, wrote interview protocols, managed observation database, managed insight matrix creation, taught research methods to team members, and facilitated workshops

Research team: Representatives from IIT Institute of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), and J.C. Design Institute for Social Innovation (DISI).Working under the guidance Patrick Whitney.

Type: Multidisciplinary collaborative project

 

 

“Hong Kong is ranked 1st  globally in life expectancy but is only ranked 75th in world happiness, behind many developing nations.”

Not only is the population of senior adults growing and living longer, trends already indicate that Hong Kong is not prepared for the health demands that come with a larger and older population. 

It’s time we do something about it

In order to get a holistic perspective on Hong Kong, we talked to a wide variety of people involved in the everyday activities of the senior adults. We conducted ethnographic research and interviews with senior adults, caregivers, subject matter experts and community organization representatives. We also conducted several observations in public spaces and deeper camera studies with caregivers. We generated design criteria and conceptual directions to frame a long-term design approach, moving from piecemeal solutions to integrated solution systems.

 

From the large number of observations, we generated a list of 150 unique insights. Using the Insight Matrix we discovered five large patterns of activity. 

Maintaining Social Ties

Without family and  intergenerational relationships, social ties between the senior adults and their communities are weak.

  “Yes, she likes [mahjong] a lot. But she cannot play too often. Maybe just few rounds...After four to five rounds, she needs to leave and do something else like watching TV.  —Daughter of nursing resident

“Yes, she likes [mahjong] a lot. But she cannot play too often. Maybe just few rounds...After four to five rounds, she needs to leave and do something else like watching TV.—Daughter of nursing resident

Avoiding Becoming a Burden

Senior adults strive to avoid being seen as a burden to their family and community.

  “Not for their economic status, some of them have their own status. They want to earn a living. They want to earn a living by themselves.”—Social Worker

“Not for their economic status, some of them have their own status. They want to earn a living. They want to earn a living by themselves.”—Social Worker

Contributing to Community and Self-Fulfillment

Senior adults desire to pursue self-fulfillment regardless of age and ability level. They desire to participate in activities to assert their independence and show that they can add value to their communities.

  “  Every day is different. When some course or some exercise is finished, I will start another one. So I am active every day, maybe volunteering, maybe dancing, maybe high-tea and having lunch with friends.”—Actively Ageing Grandmother

Every day is different. When some course or some exercise is finished, I will start another one. So I am active every day, maybe volunteering, maybe dancing, maybe high-tea and having lunch with friends.”—Actively Ageing Grandmother

Aging in Place While Managing Transitions

Senior adults prefer aging in place because transitions are disruptive and isolating.

Caregivers help ease the transition of aging adults but their own emotional needs are not met.

  They prefer to live in the street than live in public housing even when they are older because this is where they grew up. This is where their network is. —Social Worker

They prefer to live in the street than live in public housing even when they are older because this is where they grew up. This is where their network is. —Social Worker

Managing Health: Finances and Community Systems

Dealing with medical expenses is stressful and strains the senior adults adult’s budget. 

Senior adults care requires interconnected support resources that are often burdened by increasing demand and caregiving skill gaps.

  “You can say I am a 24-hour nurse. He cannot even take a bath by himself, so I need to do everything including cleaning and personal care.”—Caregiver

“You can say I am a 24-hour nurse. He cannot even take a bath by himself, so I need to do everything including cleaning and personal care.”—Caregiver

Through the patterns identified, we generated a list of criteria to guide future concept development. 

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We used some of these criteria to create example concepts, showing how solutions can work as a system to produce positive impact on senior adults, caregivers, communities, and Hong Kong as a whole. A vision of what’s possible with collaboration across departments and organizations.

 

looking forward 

This work will inform a second phase to design and prototype products, environments, information and services that improve the lives of the senior adults by identifying the right combinations of people, departments and other partners. These two phases are part of a longer term vision in which PolyU becomes a leader in solutions for successful ageing in Hong Kong and beyond. 

 

Behind the scene