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Speech by SLW at inauguration dinner of Institute of Active Ageing of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the inauguration dinner of the Institute of Active Ageing of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University today (July 2):

Professor Timothy Tong (President of Hong Kong Polytechnic University), Dr C H Leong (Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Institute of Active Ageing), Dr Ng Tat-lun (Deputy Chairman of the Council of Hong Kong Polytechnic University), Dr Jenny Chung (Director of the Institute of Active Ageing), Mrs Teresa Tsien (Co-director of the Institute of Active Ageing), members of the Advisory Committee of the Institute of Active Ageing, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It gives me great pleasure to be here this evening to join the inauguration of the Institute of Active Ageing. Let me first offer my warmest congratulations to Hong Kong Polytechnic University on launching this important and timely initiative.

     The Institute (or IAA in short) has chosen a very apt title "Engagement for Life" for its introductory document.  In our childhood, we are engaged mostly in receiving formal education as well as learning about life from our parents and families.  As we progress to adulthood, we are engaged in wider social circles, develop our careers and most of us choose to form families.  As we further move up the ladder towards the third age, there are still ample opportunities for us to engage in life, in society and in family.  This is the "active ageing" that we have been advocating.

     In this respect, Dr Leong (CH), the Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the IAA, is my role model, to say the least.  More importantly, he is a shining example of active ageing.  His record of public service is exemplary and his enthusiasm in and commitment to serving the community is simply infectious.  He has devoted an immense amount of time and energy to steering the work of the Elderly Commission in helping other elders live brighter and fuller lives.  

     Tonight's occasion is about the establishment of an important infrastructure to enhance our knowledge and understanding of "ageing well", and to put such knowledge to practice.

     In this context, the Institute breaks new ground in Hong Kong by drawing on the expertise of 20 disciplines from 12 departments of three faculties and two schools of Hong Kong Polytechnic University to foster holistic, cross-disciplinary collaboration for the advancement of knowledge and skills to facilitate active ageing.  Come to think of it, this is the logical thing to do.  After all, at a micro level, our focus is on a person, facing different challenges in physical and mental health, in maintaining a reasonable standard of living, in accessing different facilities and services, and in maintaining social relationships with fellow elders as well as younger generations.  At a macro level, an ageing population puts increasing pressure on the public health infrastructure, the supply of enough professionals to care for the elders, the working population's contribution to support the elders, the economy's total productivity and hence its competitiveness in a globalised environment.

     Our policy challenge is to turn such challenges into opportunities.  As the Chinese saying goes 「家有一老,如有一寶」, literally meaning "Having an elderly at home is like possessing a treasure, elders have much to offer from their wealth of experience in life.  The Institute's proposal to empower older adults to participate in research projects and take part in community services is conducive to tapping and pooling such invaluable resources.  We can further supplement their experience by providing other learning opportunities, such as the Elder Academy Scheme jointly launched by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the Elderly Commission in 2007.  I am pleased that the Institute has built on this idea further through the "university of the third age", or U3A, where elders will be recruited to become members and be empowered to run the programmes.

     With a long list of distinguished advisers and academics of various disciplines, I have every confidence that the IAA will become not only a landmark in academic circles, but also a major driving force in helping elders in our society more fully engage in life in the decades to come.

     Thank you.

Ends/Friday, July 2, 2010
Issued at HKT 19:53


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