Living environment and residential satisfaction of older persons in Hong Kong : a comparative study between Sha Tin new town and Wan Chai old urban area

  • Avis Wai Man LOO

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


The living environment of older people potentially has many influences on their well-being and later life and perhaps especially so in rapidly changing environments such as in Hong Kong today. This research attempts to compare and contrast the experiences and attitudes of older persons living Hong Kong in private housing in old urban areas and public housing estates in new towns, in terms of their environmental conditions, residential satisfaction and patterns of behaviour. It also investigates the risks and hazards that the older persons face in their daily living environment and suggests possible improvements in terms of planning and design.

The research adopts principally a qualitative approach, employing triangulation of various sources of data to increase understanding of the research topic. Fifty-eight in depth interviews with older people were conducted, amongst whom thirty respondents lived in Wan Chai district, one of Hong Kong's oldest urban areas, the remainder of respondents living in newer environments, in Sha Tin new town, developed since about 1980. Two focus group discussions and interviews with key informants individual as well as reviews of the published literature, were employed to add depth and interpretation of the data.

On the face of it, relatively speaking, the subjective and objective living environments of older people in public housing in Sha Tin were better than those in private housing in Wan Chai. Public housing estates in new towns are comprehensively planned to be self-sufficient with many different kinds of facilities, from shopping to recreation and usually have more privacy, larger living space, well planned and the facilities are better in quality. By contrast, the living environments in Wan Chai are more cramped, older and noisy, as well as having a greater range.

With regard to the residential satisfaction, respondents in Sha Tin were more satisfied with their living environment but the differences with residents in Wan Chai were not great. Most of the respondents in two areas were satisfied with their home environment even though the living area is small. Most respondents have their own toilet and kitchen which they regarded as an improvement over what they had when they were younger. In addition, most respondents in the two survey areas were satisfied with the accessibility to social services or facilities, with the exception of medical and health services. However, attachment to place was stronger in Wan Chai district where most respondents wished to continue to live.

In terms of hazards in their everyday environments, more than two-third of respondents in the two areas identified falls as the most most common accidents among older people. However, they had not made any changes to make their living environment safer and to decrease hazards or risks. It was also found that most older people spent more time at home and their action spaces and activity spaces were limited.

This research suggests a joint approach in planning and design for living environments is desirable in order to enable older people to be able to continue to live at home and living independently and to assist the Hong Kong Government's policy of ageing in place. Enhanced accessibility to social services or health facilities is essential and more recreational grounds and open space with facilities suitable for older people should be build. Moreover, elderly-friendly design should be encouraged. Finally, the research identifies a need to develop strategies to increase older people's willingness to and awareness of the need to make changes to improve the safety of their living environments.
Date of Award25 Oct 2000
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorDavid Rosser PHILLIPS (Supervisor)

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