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Written by:Mr MA Lee Tak

The Hong Kong Housing Society's Elderly Resources Centre conducted a study in collaboration with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2011, where 456 community-dwelling elderly persons over the age of 65 and in good health were interviewed.  The results indicated that older people occasionally suffered accidental falls due to slippery floors, uneven door thresholds, etc., and the annual rate of accidental falls was approximately 25%.
 
According to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), Hong Kong is facing an ageing population.  In 2015, the number of elderly persons aged 65 or above stood at about 1.12 million, representing 15.4% of Hong Kong's population.  According to the projection by the HKSAR Government, the elderly population will keep growing until peaking at about 2.61 million (36% of Hong Kong's population) in 2058.  Based on the results of the study mentioned above, the number of elderly persons suffering accidental falls is estimated to be as many as 653,000 a year.  Although it is projected that the elderly population will decline to around 2.58 million in 2064, those suffering accidental falls will be as numerous as 645,000 a year.
 
Therefore, in order to achieve “ageing in place” as promoted by the HKSAR Government, the layouts of homes need to be age-friendly, taking into account the physical conditions of elderly residents.  Design of home layout should be safe, convenient and barrier-free.
 
Safe design aims to eliminate the environmental hazards to older people as a result of their declining physical abilities.  This can be done by completely removing the hazards or with the use of supporting devices.  For example, to prevent falls among older people due to poor balance or frail lower limbs, bathtubs can be replaced with walk-in showers, and grab bars can be installed inside the bathroom, etc.
 
Convenient design aims to improve the environment and streamline chores for the elderly to cater for their physical needs, thereby reducing the burden on their bodies with greater convenience.  For example, cookware frequently used should be kept within easy reach so that elderly persons need not climb up or squat down to get things.
 
Barrier-free design aims to ensure smooth access and sufficient space for easy movement of the elderly even with walking aids.  It also facilitates carers in lifting or transferring the elders within a small space, which is so important for bathing and toileting when our elders' balance can become further compromised as they get older.
 
With a proper home design, it will minimize home accidents of the elderly who could then enjoy a better life in their later years.  The life expectancy of Hong Kong's population continues to increase.  According to the projection by the HKSAR Government, the average expectation of life will increase to 87 years for males and 92.5 years for females in 2064.  If you are stepping into your sixties, it is time for you to improve the layout of your home.