Hong Kong Christian Service

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Issue 010
2015 November

Speak positively to the elders
Demonstrate a society of respect and social inclusion

One of the 8 essential features of an age-friendly community according to the World health organisation is: respect and social inclusion, which elders could actively participate in community activities and are being treated with respect regardless of their health or social status. To promote this message, our Elderly Core Business conducted a research from August to September about what kind of expression would elders feel being respected or vice versa, through interviews and focus groups. 1,005 people aged between 16 and 90 were interviewed in our elderly and children & youth units. Five expressions that were considered respectful and 5 not were selected, they are:

Five expressions that elders considered respectful:

  • Good morning /how are you?
  • How's everything? Are you happy? How are you?
  • You are awesome!I shall seek your advice again!
  • Thanks a lot!
  • You deserve our respect!

Five expressions that elders considered not respectful:

  • You are always standing in the way.
  • You don't understand! You know nothing at all!
  • Shut up!
  • Even the hostels will shut you out!
  • It's none of your business, it's none of your concern!

According to some of the elders in the focus group, those five expressions that show respect are common expressions among themselves, they may look simple, but if they came from family members or the young ones, elders will be particularly happy about it and felt valued. When they were greeted with “Good morning, How are you or How are you getting on?” they felt that people took the initiation to care about them, they felt being treated politely. “Thank you very much, I shall seek your advice again." That even makes them feel important and reassured.

A heart-warming expression: Take care of yourself when going out.

It was found that about 80% of elders considered the expression "take care of yourself when going out" is very heart-warming,it reminds them to be careful not to fall. The younger generation may not comprehend the consequences of a fall after which health and life qualities are compromised, therefore, they did not consider such an expression carries any importance to the elders.

Regarding to those disrespectful expressions, elders felt they were more upset if they came from family members or those who were familiar. Among those expressions like “You don't understand! You know nothing at all! It's none of your business, it's none of your concern!”elders felt they were being misunderstood or belittled when they were trying to show care and concern.

The most heart-broken expression: You'll be shut out from elderly hostels!

In an outburst of emotion, expressions like:“You are standing in the way”,“You'll be shut out from elderly hostels”are most heart-breaking to the elders. They felt being neglected and hated, sometimes such emotion will be suppressed in order to maintain the relationship. However, suppression of emotion will in turn affect mental health.

For Hong Kong to become an age-friendly city, government policy and matching services are needed, however, we could begin with a simple greeting and appreciation. Let's demonstrate the culture of respect and social inclusion to elders by taking the initiation to speak positively to the elders around us and greet them pro-actively when we meet them.


elders distribute souvenirs printed with words of encouragement and respect to elders.

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