Promoting productive and successful aging has gradually become a main concern for society at large, in particular, public policy makers, gerontologists and social workers in ageing societies. In Hong Kong, the population aged 60 years and above has increased from 745,500 (13% of the total population) in 1991 to 1,004,400 (14.8%) in 2001 (Census & Statistics Department 2005). This figure will increase to about 2.2 million representing 27.7% of the population by 2023 within a span of about twenty years (Census & Statistics Department 2004). With this rapid growth of the elderly population, greater efforts are urgently needed to prepare for the shift in demographics and the challenges it brings to the Hong Kong society.
The Hong Kong SAR has initiated the concept of “learning for life” (Policy Address 1999) and subsequently changed it to “learning through life” (Policy Address 2000). Yet, this concept of lifelong education, which is widely publicized, tends to be associated more with career development and job training that enhances an individual’s job capability rather than a more holistic concept that encompasses other aspects of learning. A shift in emphasis is needed so that lifelong education can be turned into an effective strategy that responds to the various challenges of an ageing society such as in the case of Hong Kong. This reorientation in focus in life long education is aimed at enhancing the quality of life of senior citizens.
Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council (hereafter referred as “the Council”), being one of the largest social services organization in Hong Kong, is committed to develop a more comprehensive package of services that provides care to senior citizens. Based on the motto of ‘Individual Care and Overall Concern’, the Council puts concerted efforts to provide innovative, comprehensive and quality services to the seniors so as to enable them to continue to live in their communities with dignity and happiness.
As early as in the mid-1990s, the Council recognized the importance of lifelong learning in the life of elderly in order to promote productive and successful aging. Hence, the Institute of Continuing Education for the Senior Citizens (hereafter referred as the Institute) was established in 1998 for the promotion of lifelong education for the seniors in Hong Kong.
Lifelong learning is believed to be essential for the success of actualizing the spirits of “productive ageing”, “healthy ageing” and “successful ageing. Responding to the increase in gray population, the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council established the Institute of Continuing Education for senior Citizens in 1998 in order to meet their increasing need for learning. This paper chronicles the development of the Institute, explains its rationales, curriculum focus and delivery. In addition, it discusses in detail the recent development strategies adopted by the Institute to enhance elderly participation and empowerment in the process of lifelong learning. Two specific actions are taken, namely, formation of student unions and promoting elderly participation in classroom teaching and learning for capacity building and empowerment.
Shum, W. C. (2009). An evolving practice model in the development of lifelong education for senior citizens (APIAS Monograph Paper Series No.16). Retrieved from Lingnan University website: http://commons.ln.edu.hk/apiasmp/16