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    Samenwerking | 合作

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A Japanese expert in the science of ageing has revealed his country's thriving silver-hair market was started by a nationwide elderly insurance plan launched 15 years ago - and says it sheds light on a possible future path for Hong Kong. With an over-65 population of 33 million, Japan is the fastest ageing population in Asia and precedes Hong Kong by over a decade in this trend, said gerontologist Hiroyuki Murata. Hong Kong, together with South Korea, will soon catch up. One in three Japanese will be over 65 in 2030; Hong Kong will reach that ratio in 2040. "There was enough of a demographic shift that [elderly services and their products] were seen not as welfare but business," said Murata in an interview with the Post. Much of Japan's quality private homes for the elderly were funded by the government medical insurance plan, with a now-lucrative silver-hair market worth an estimated 110 trillion yen (HK$7 trillion), he said. The Japanese scheme is partly insurance-based and partly tax-funded. Japanese start contributing to it when they turn 40. However, the plan was getting very expensive and the government was trying to cut back on it, Murata noted. Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun from the University of Hong Kong said there was an "urgent" need to launch a similar plan for the elderly in the city. He said good nursing homes cost up to HK$30,000 a month, which was a burden for many people.

"How can ordinary people afford to pay HK$20,000 to HK$30,000 [a month] for private home care for around 10 to 20 years," said Chow, adding that he was worried, though, about how a long-term insurance plan . . . . read more


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