The Institute of Active Ageing of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) held a public forum on "Innovative Use of Open Space and Inclusive Built Environment" on 4 December 2018. As part of the Jockey Club Age-friendly City Project ("JCAFC Project"), the forum aims to explore the challenges and opportunities of enhancing the age-friendliness of outdoor space and building development in Hong Kong.
The opening ceremony of the forum was officiated by Ms Imelda CHAN, Head of Charities (Grant Making – Elderly and Family), The Hong Kong Jockey Club, and Professor Daniel LAI, Chair Professor of Social Work and Gerontology, Head of Department of Applied Social Sciences and Director of Institute of Active Ageing, PolyU.
The JCAFC Projecthas been initiated and funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust since 2015. In partnership with the gerontology research institutes of four local universities, including the Institute of Active Ageing of PolyU, the Project aims to address the challenges of ageing population in Hong Kong. Adopting a bottom-up, district-based approach,the JCAFC Project joins hands with various stakeholders in the community to develop Hong Kong into an age-friendly city that caters for the needs of all ages. This public forum is the fourth one since the inception of the Project.
Under the JCAFC Project, baseline assessment was conducted between July 2015 and September 2017 to measure the age-friendliness of 18 districts in Hong Kong. The study, involving 9,785 questionnaires and 739 respondents in 91 focus groups, evaluated the eight domains of an age-friendly city identified by the World Health Organization ("WHO"), namely "Transportation", "Social Participation", "Housing", "Respect and Social Inclusion", "Civic Participation and Employment", "Communication and Information", "Community Support and Health Services" and "Outdoor Spaces and Buildings".
At the forum, Professor Daniel Lai shared the findings on "Outdoor Spaces and Buildings", which was ranked fifth among the eight domains in terms of the degree of age-friendliness. According to the study, green spaces as well as age-friendly and barrier-free facilities are accessible to senior citizens. But he pointed out that there are still a number of areas that need to be attended to with more effortsto increase the quantity and age-friendliness of community facilities, improve pedestrian walkways, maintain a clean and hygienic environment, reduce rent for wet market shops to attract more local stores and educate the public on proper cycling. "In view of the growing ageing population in Hong Kong, the needs of all age groups should be considered in the urban planning and architectural design. Our ultimate goal is to enhance the quality of life and social integration of the community as a whole."
"Cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary deliberations are needed to identify the solutions to many social issues. The Club is pleased to facilitate the setting-up of this platform which brings together stakeholders from the government, business and social welfare sectors for cross-sectoral communication," said Ms Imelda Chan. "In order to encourage different community stakeholders to join hands in building an age-friendly culture, the Jockey Club Age-friendly City Partnership Scheme was launched in June 2018. The Scheme is aimed at encouraging the business sector and public bodies to implement age-friendly initiatives, thereby motivating the general public to show their respect for elderly people and understand their needs."
At the public forum, keynote speakers shared their insights in tackling the challenges of ageing of population and buildings at the same time, applying smart city technologies as well as planning for outdoor spaces and buildings to cope with the ageing population. In a panel discussion following the keynote speeches, representatives from government, professionals from medical, architectural, academic and social welfare sectors, together with representatives of senior citizens shared with over 400 forum participants about the ways of making public space and built environment more socially inclusive and age-friendly.
The public forum also featured interactive exhibition and booths to introduce the JCAFC concept, and to share knowledge and examples of age-friendly open space and buildings. (For details of the Jockey Club Age-friendly City Project, please access:- http://www.jcafc.hk or https://www.facebook.com/HKJCAFC)