Listen to #Hashtag Hong Kong every Sunday morning at 8.15
Focussing on issues affecting civil society, we'll hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies, and non-profit groups.
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
As the population ages, more people find caring for their elderly loved ones falling on their shoulders. While the population of Hong Kong increased only by 5% between 2011 and 2021, the population of centenarians, people aged 100 or more, increased by more than 6 folds.
In light of the rapid increase in the population of adults of advanced age, say nonagenarians and centenarians, in collaboration with The University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Shue Yan University, The Hong Kong Council of Social Service recently conducted the second round of the Hong Kong Centenarian Study (with the first round taking place in 2011) with 151 families and found that most caregivers of centenarians are their children, with many of them being between 65-74 years old (43%).
This phenomenon of “the elderly caring for even older seniors” is common in Hong Kong. It poses significant challenges, including physical fatigue, emotional stress, social isolation, and financial burden, adversely impacting caregivers’ health and well-being.
The biggest challenge faced by elderly caregivers is physical and mental fatigue. Caring for a loved one requires a lot of strength and energy, which can be even more taxing for elderly caregivers with health issues. They may have to frequently lift or support a frail loved one, provide assistance in daily living, and perform other tasks that can strain their bodies continually.
Emotional stress is another challenge, particularly when caring involves complex or arduous needs. For example, tending to a loved one with dementia or other cognitive impairments requires infinite patience and constant attention, which can be frustrating and overwhelming. Many caregivers wish to see their older loved ones through and are motivated to provide as much care to their older relatives as possible. Despite such high motivation to care, their strains may elevate to a point where their mental and physical health is compromised, which is when nursing home placements are considered.
Caregivers may also feel isolated and burnt out, as they often have to sacrifice socialising with friends and family or their interests. This can spiral into depression and anxiety, further exacerbating their struggles.
The financial burden is another challenge that elderly caregivers may grapple with, especially those who are retired and living on a fixed income. In other words, their financial resources, whether from their own children or governmental subsidies, are often shared with their older loved ones. The study mentioned above showed that 83.2% of caregivers had a monthly income below $30,000, and 70.5% of respondents earned below the poverty line of $20,000 for a 4-person household (CSD, 2020). 48.3% of caregivers expressed financial pressure.
So, what can be done to aid elderly caregivers facing these problems? Here are a few suggestions:
1) Seeking out community resources, including respite care, support groups, and counselling services. Elderly caregivers should also reach out to family and friends for help, as small gestures can make a big difference.
2) It is also essential for caregivers to prioritise their health and well-being by taking time for themselves, pursuing hobbies and interests, or getting mental health support when needed. Caregivers who look after themselves are better equipped to watch over their loved ones in the long run.
3) Sometimes, it may be necessary to hire a professional caregiver to assist with the needs of a loved one. With the advance in technology, some products help, such as fall prevention equipment and health-monitoring smart devices. Caregiver subsidies or financial subsidies for using Gerontechnology in the community would help.
Taking care of an elderly loved one can be arduous and emotionally draining, particularly for caregivers themselves, seniors. By seeking out available resources, asking for help from family and friends, being mindful of self-care, and appraising professional assistance, elderly caregivers can get the support they need to navigate the challenges and provide the best care possible for their loved ones.
And now I have a song I'd like to dedicate to all of you listening. My song is: You’ve Got a Friend by Carole King
My name is Zephyrus. My pronouns are he/him. I’m a doctor, an activist, and a transgender guy. I’m the co-founder and vice-chairperson of Quarks, Q-U-A-R-K-S. We’re the first and by far the only organization in Hong Kong for transgender youth.
This coming Friday, 31st March, is the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Why is visibility so important for the transgender community, that we have to make a day about it?
Simply because our society still has a lot to learn about gender diversity.
Most people told me I’m the first transgender person they met. Some of them also said it’s difficult to remember what trans men and trans women mean. They simply don’t know when I introduce myself as a trans man, it means male or female.
Then again, a lot of people don’t really know what transgender means. Or more specifically, there’re lots of misconceptions.
The recent victory of Q’s & Henry Edward Tse’s judicial review on gender recognition has in fact told us a great deal about how we can understand transgender people. In early February, the Court of Final Appeal ruled that the existing policy, that the HKID gender marker can only be updated, with the surgeries of sex organ removal and construction, is a violation of the constitution, and a violation of human rights. The HKID gender marker should not be a marker of sex organs. Let’s discuss more from there.
First, gender identity is not equal to sex organs. These are separate things, independent of each other, just having no correlation at all. Being transgender is not about surgeries. In fact, there’s nothing one has to do before one becomes transgender or cisgender. It’s about our gender identity that has developed since we’re 2-4 years old, and how one is living their life.
The requirement that a trans person has to undergo gender-affirming surgeries of their sex organs, in order to update their HKID gender marker, is a denial of the existence of transgender people. It is unreasonable that, in order for one’s gender identity to be recognized, their sex organs would have to resemble that of cisgender people. But gender identity is independent of sex organs, to begin with. Transgender people are often asked “Have you done those surgeries yet?”, or more directly, “What kind of sex organs do you have down there?” Now, with the victory of the judicial review, transgender people in Hong Kong are finally not objectified to our sex organs.
We still have to wait for the new policy on the update of the HKID gender marker. But if sex organ surgeries are no longer required to update one’s HKID gender marker, it’s very likely that in the future, whenever we see a M on a HKID, we shouldn’t assume the person must be cisgender or must be having a phallic organ. Instead, M would be possessed by both cisgender men, and transgender men. They have different bodies, but they all identify as male. It is more important to know a person’s social role and appearance, and their qualities and experience for employment for example, than to dig into what kind of sex organs they may have, or how their sex organs look like.
I’d say this is how we can see gender. When we look at gender from the perspective of gender identity, men would mean all those who have a male gender identity, including both cisgender men and transgender men. Similarly, the female would be a diverse group of women, who all share a female gender identity. While they may have different bodies, different upbringings, and different life stories, for both cisgender women and transgender women.
There’re of course non-binary people too. Their gender identity is one of the many identities, other than male and female, out of the gender binary. What kind of sex organs they have is not something we need to think about. I’d also add that the legal recognition of non-binary gender, or indication of X gender marker, or not having a gender marker at all on HKID, is, however, not widely discussed in Hong Kong.
Thirdly, healthcare decisions shouldn’t be affected by legal consequences. Gender-affirming healthcare has been established for more than 40 years in Hong Kong. One can now visit the public or private sector to discuss their gender identity, and social role with a professional, and for mental health support, gender-affirming voice training, gender-affirming hormones, gender-affirming surgeries, etc. It’s important to know that these healthcare services are not a must for every transgender person. Some may only wish for hormones. There’s no completion or incompletion at all. Just like every healthcare decision, it should be made according to one’s needs, whether one wishes to experience those changes in their body and appearance. In particular, surgeries shouldn’t be used just to acquire legal status.
If this is the first time you came across this information, it’s alright. This is not an personal issue, but more about the lack of comprehensive sex education across different educational levels. Progress has been made bit by bit in recent years. And I’m certain that with the victory of the judicial review, the way our Hong Kong society understands gender would change significantly.
As Dr Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. This judicial review is a victory for the basic human rights of the local transgender community, for the LGBTQIA+ community, and a landmark of human rights in Hong Kong.