Informal support of older persons under different living arrangements : a case study in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong

  • Anita Ching Ying NG

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This research focuses on sources of informal support for elderly people under different living arrangements in Hong Kong, with Tuen Mun new town as a case study. The thesis attempts to assess the attitudes of elderly people to the needs and adequacy of the informal support provided by their family members and their social support network. It also attempts to assess older people's views of the incentives and motivations for children to provide support to their elderly parents. In this way, it hopes to throw light on conceptual issues including the role of filial piety and changes in intergenerational relations, especially in the context of Hong Kong as an example of a modernizing Asian society.

A social support network can provide a number of functions. It can provide an elderly person with both instrumental support and non-instrumental support in later life. An informal support network consists mainly of networks of family members, neighbours and friends. However as societies modernize, there are likely to be changes in family structure and functions, in addition to the changes in traditional values; indeed, modernization is often felt to have weakened the care-giving function of the family.

To investigate the social support consequences of these changes, this research adopts a qualitative approach, to attempt to examine older persons' attitude to the motivation and feelings behind provision of informal support under a range of living arrangements: alone, with or without spouse or children. In-depth interviews were conducted with 50 elderly people in public housing estates. Triangulation was carried out with data from individual respondents, two focus groups and key informants, as well as the published literature. In this way, the reliability of the research and a fuller picture of the informal support of elderly people were achieved.

The main findings of the research were that certain forms of support require close proximity whilst others can be performed at a distance, and those co-residing with elderly relatives may be more aware of their full range of needs. Therefore, the factor of proximity, especially living arrangements (and geographical distance from potential caregivers) and the quality of relationships between the potential care-giver and potential care-receiver appear to affect the needs for and provision of support to older persons. Furthermore, the research found that there could be important interactions between various components of informal support. In addition, the research found that the traditional value of filial piety has been modified and in many ways eroded, so a modem interpretation of the traditional concept may be emerging.
Date of Award25 Nov 1999
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorDavid Rosser PHILLIPS (Supervisor) & Keng Mun LEE (Co-supervisor)

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