Successful Aging from the Perspective of Hong Kong Elderly

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ABSTRACT

Aim  Successful ageing is a worldwide discussion topic, but its definition is diverse and controversial. This study aimed to explore the meaning of successful ageing from the perspective of elders in Hong Kong, and to compare their attributes with those identified in the literature.

Methods  Qualitative in-depth interviews on the perspectives of elderly persons were held with 4 participants aged above 60, recruited from a community medical center.

Results  All respondents rated themselves as ageing successful. Five themes were identified: Good health and ability of self-care, good family relationship and being cared for, feeling of contentment, economic security, and social activities. This reflected the multi-dimensional perspective in local elderly people.

Conclusions  A life span perspective rather than assessment at certain point provide better insight to understand people's perception of success in old age. More research is needed to explore the needs and expectations of elderly in Hong Kong.

SUCCESSFUL AGEING FROM THE PERSPECTIVE

OF HONG KONG ELDERS

INTRODUCTION

The world population is ageing rapidly. This ageing trend, occurring in many developed countries as a consequence of falling mortality and birth rates, is a phenomenon of “demographic transition” in sociology. In 2006, the overall percentage of the world population aged 65 or over was 15%, as high as 19% in Germany and 21% in Japan (New Horizons, 2007). In Hong Kong, the proportion of those who aged 65 and over was 12.6% in 2008, which is expected to be gradual up to 16.2% in 2018 (Planning Department, 2009). It is projected that the proportion will rise markedly to 24% in 2031, which means that one in four people will be in the aged group. Demographic changes challenge policy makers to put greater than ever effort in dealing with the consequences of an ageing population. Changes in societal values and family structures will also cause profound effects on all segments of our societies. Ageing becomes the mainstream social transformation in Hong Kong.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Many concepts on ageing have been studied over the last half of the twentieth century. Cumming and Henry (1961) posed the disengagement theory at a time when life expectancy was shorter and mandatory retirement was in place. They posited that ageing is a natural and voluntary withdrawal by elderly people from society and simultaneous withdrawal by society from elderly people in order to fulfill the functional needs of the society. However in the past few decades, more gerontologists have taken a positive approach. With increase life expectancy and improved health condition of the aged group, there has been a shift in the focus of studies of ageing from emphasizing on disabilities and functional decline among the elders to factors facilitating the aged group to live a healthier and more satisfactory life.

For the past several decades, gerontologists have been developing conceptual frameworks or schema to describe ideal outcomes of the ageing process. The idea of ‘Productive Ageing’ emerged in the early 1980s challenges the historical view that old age is a period of frailty and dependence and appeals that currently majority of older adults can remain productive through contributions as workers, volunteers, care-givers and active citizens (Morrow-Howell, Hinterlong & Sherraden, 2001). ‘Active Ageing’ is a concept advocated by WHO (2002) as “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation, and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age”. It encourages strategies for prevention of chronic disease, access to age-friendly primary health care and creation of age-friendly environments to foster the social engagement of older people.

‘Successful Ageing’ was first introduced by Robert Havighurst (1961), defined as "adding life to the years" and "getting satisfaction from life". Since...
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