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Speech by SLW at Bank Consortium Trust Company Limited 10th anniversary reception and establishment of Third Age Academy (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the Bank Consortium Trust Company Limited 10th anniversary reception and establishment of the Third Age Academy today (June 15):

David (David Wong, Chairman of Bank Consortium Holdings Limited), John (Professor John Leong Chi-yan, President of the Open University of Hong Kong), Anna (Anna Wu Hung-yuk, Chairman of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority), CH (Dr C H Leong, Chairman of Elderly Commission), Ka-shi (Ka-shi Lau, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Bank Consortium Trust Company Limited), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It gives me great pleasure to join you all on this occasion of double happiness and importance. We are here not only to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Bank Consortium Trust (BCT) but also to witness the launch of the BCT Third Age Academy.

     Let me first congratulate BCT very warmly on its 10th anniversary. Over the past decade, BCT has established itself as one of Hong Kong's leading players in the pension and trust industry. As one of the top five Mandatory Provident Fund trustees, BCT is well positioned to serve Hong Kong's employers and workforce as well as the wider community.    

     To mark its first decade of success, BCT has chosen to launch the BCT Third Age Academy to contribute to the well-being of our elders. I must applaud BCT on reaching this decision. It reflects BCT's care and concern for the community and clear commitment to fulfilling its corporate social responsibility.  

     The vision of BCT Third Age Academy is to encourage third agers to participate in continuous learning activities, thereby arousing their interest, enhancing communal bonding and raising financial literacy.  

     In this respect, BCT shares the same goals as the Government. Along with the Elderly Commission, we have been promoting active ageing to encourage elders to pursue lifelong learning, engage in community activities and have healthy living so as to lead an enriched life. This is particularly important as our population is fast ageing. At present, one out of eight Hong Kong residents is aged 65 or above.  The ratio will rise to one in four in 24 years' time (i.e. 2033). We should come to grips with this challenge by tackling it up-stream proactively through turning our growing elderly population into healthy, happy and harmonious senior citizens rather than downstream through reactive and expensive medical service, institutional care and counselling.    

     We launched the Elder Academy Scheme in early 2007 to encourage lifelong learning among elders.  Elder academies are run jointly by school sponsoring bodies and social welfare organisations, and operate under the principles of inter-generational harmony and cross-sectoral collaboration.  They aim to promote continuous learning and encourage elders to widen their social networks, maintain physical and mental well-being and foster a sense of worth whilst acquiring knowledge.  

     At present, there are 78 elder academies in primary and secondary schools.  The number is expected to increase to about 90 in the coming (2009/10) school year.  In addition, eight tertiary institutions, including the Open University, have joined the scheme to offer elders the opportunities to pursue learning at universities.  

     My heartfelt thanks go to the Open University, which offers a wide range of programmes and courses including distance learning courses, face-to-face courses and courses from the Active Elderly Learning Programme for elders to choose from.  The subjects of these programmes and courses range from Chinese medicine to learning English through classic American films.  I am particularly grateful that BCT Third Age Academy will support the Elder Academy at the Open University by providing sponsorship to needy elders enrolled in the Active Elderly Learning Programme. With your help, elders lacking financial means will not be doubly deprived of the chance to learn and enrich themselves.

     It is our belief that inter-generational connectivity and capacity building contribute significantly to fostering social harmony.  We therefore encourage young students to take part in the operation of elder academies, such as acting as assistants or helping out in events, so as to enhance their communication with elders and promote inter-generational harmony.  We also encourage elders to take part in Elder Academy Management Committees, and engage in the administration and planning of the curricula and activities of elder academies.

     To ensure the sustainable development of the scheme, the Government has allocated $10 million to set up an Elder Academy Development Foundation.  The foundation will provide support to school sponsoring bodies and social welfare organisations to jointly run elder academies, and provide funding for the development of elder academy courses at the tertiary institutions.

     The Government is also co-ordinating the setting up of a dedicated portal for the elderly to provide one-stop information service on elderly services, and will soon kick off an Expression of Interest exercise to openly invite proposals from interested organisations providing elderly-related services.  Together with the computer courses offered by the elder academies, the portal will help elders expand their circles of life through the Internet.

     By joining hands with the Open University, BCT Third Age Academy stands out as a classic case of cross-sectoral endeavour to help make lifelong learning a reality for all. This is also a shining example of corporate social responsibility even in times of global economic downturn and uncertainties. On this note, let me congratulate BCT once again on its 10th anniversary. I also wish the BCT Third Age Academy every success in enhancing the financial literacy and self-confidence of our third-agers, and, more importantly, enable them to live their Third Age to the full.

     Thank you.

Ends/Monday, June 15, 2009
Issued at HKT 19:00


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