Reaching out to 'hidden' elders
The volunteers, who are members of three elderly service agencies, will join the existing 100-strong team of "ambassadors" - made up of Hongkong Electric staff and other members of the agencies - in visiting and helping the elderly in need.
"We have expanded the programme by recruiting more elderly volunteers because it is more likely for them to come into contact with `hidden' senior citizens, who may be their neighbours," says Catherine Sing, public affairs manager for corporate communication at Hongkong Electric, which provides power for Hong Kong and Lamma islands.
"The 'hidden' senior citizens are more receptive to the assistance provided to them when the initial approach is being made by elderly volunteers," she adds.
The programme was started by the power provider in 2008 in partnership with three non-governmental organisations: Hong Kong Society for the Aged (SAGE) in the Eastern district; St James' Settlement in Central, Wan Chai and the Western district; and the Aberdeen Kai-Fong Welfare Association Social Service Centre in the Southern district.
According to Sing, the programme was originally launched to raise awareness of the government's monthly electricity-charge subsidy scheme, introduced in September 2008. "Hongkong Electric's management came up with the idea of organising carnival-type activities for those who benefited from the scheme. We [hoped] to reach out to them and bring them back to the network."
The company also commissioned SAGE to do a survey to identify the needs of the `hidden' elderly. "We found many did not seek help because they did not want to bother others. They seldom went to elderly centres because they thought only those in need would go," Sing says.
The company and its three partners last year organised social and educational activities to encourage the hidden elderly to seek help, and promote the services and facilities at elderly centres. Meanwhile, 100 volunteers were appointed "ambassadors" tasked with visiting the homes of the `hidden' elderly every month. Mobile workshops were organised to help the new volunteers understand the problems that confronted the `hidden' elderly and acquire the necessary communication skills.
Yuen Cha-mui is one of the new volunteers. "I am glad to have the opportunity to visit the less fortunate together with the volunteers from Hongkong Electric, who have taught me many communication techniques," she says. "The programme has given me a more in-depth understanding of the issues of the `hidden' elderly."
- Volunteers have visited more than 520 `hidden' elderly people on Hong Kong Island
- About 1,000 old people have taken part in the programme's carnival-type activities
- A DVD was made of a light-hearted drama intended to get the 'hidden' elderly to seek help if needed
- A brochure promotes the services and facilities available at the three elderly service centres