The concept of healthy ageing in Hong Kong

  • Mei Lan, Mandy CHIU

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


The purpose of this study is to explore the concept of ‘Healthy Ageing’ in Hong Kong. The research attempts to explore the historical base from which ‘Healthy Ageing’ has been conceptualized in both Western and Chinese societies. This study also tries to provide an overview of literature that relevant to the ‘Healthy Ageing’ concept, and to provide an initial theoretical framework of ‘Healthy Ageing’ in a Hong Kong Chinese context.

This study mainly adopts a qualitative approach in exploring the meaning of the concept. Since that ‘Healthy Ageing’ is likely to be conceptualized from the concept of health and ageing, which have been here since the early days, a method of documentary analysis on the origin of the concept and the paths leading to what it is at present has been employed. To re-construct the concept in Hong Kong, this thesis works towards an explanation of the historical base of the concept of ‘Healthy Ageing’ in both Chinese and Western societies since Hong Kong has evolved from a mixture of both cultures. Comparative cultural analysis and research’s own interpretation act as important roles in the present study to consolidate those raw documents in particular of the Chinese literature and construct a new model for the concept. Having constructed a model of ‘Healthy Ageing’, an expert in cultural studies was then interviewed at the end of May 2002 for verifying the model.

Adopting a comparative cultural analysis, this study found that the fundamental elements, say physical and psychosocial well-being, in conceptualization of health in both East and West are almost the same, but manifestations and interpretations show some variations. Chinese people are apt to manifest and interpret their concept of health by an holistic approach, while the concept of health in Western societies is more likely to be manifested in a “compartmental” approach. These variations are basically derived from the differences of geo-cultural adaptations and the differences in individual lifestyles.

As to the concept of ageing, this study revealed that ageing subject as a process instead of an end-stage of life-span. According to one view of human beings, life-spans can be divided into eight periods: Prenatal (pregnancy), Infancy (0-3), Early Childhood (3-6), Middle Childhood (6-12), Adolescence (12-20), Young Adulthood (20-40), Midlife (40-65) and Old Age (65+). It is a natural and integral process of growing old starting from birth and ending at death, in which a continuous process of biological, psychological and social changes will be experienced in a person’s life-course.

After reconstructing health and ageing concepts, a tentative model of healthy ageing was developed in this study. In this study, healthy ageing is an holistic and dynamic concept. It is a state of interactions and adaptations between people and the environment in attaining optimal health in one’s life-span. It is a three-dimensional concept that encompasses health, health-ageing and health-ageing-environment dimensions. For the health dimension, there are six interrelated cross-life domains in achieving healthy ageing, which involve physical, psychological, social, economic, spiritual and environmental well-being. For the health-ageing dimension, people can achieve healthy ageing by attaining health in each stage of life. In this process, the health at younger stage influences the health at older stage. Thus, keeping healthy in early stage benefits the health conditions in later stages, although it cannot be said that what happens in early stage might not be unchangeable for later stages. Adopting health-promoting strategies in later stage can also provide opportunities for individuals to achieve healthy ageing. The health-ageing-environment dimension refers to the people-environment adaptation for attaining optimal health in their life-spans. Basically, people can ideally achieve healthy ageing by adopting health-promoting strategy at every stage of life. However, those favourable and unfavourable external environments will limit and change the opportunities for a person to achieve healthy ageing. To achieve optimal health in their life-spans, people are required to adjust themselves, adapting to their environment and also helping to shape the environment. Therefore, an individual-community approach is crucial for attaining healthy ageing.
Date of Award2002
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Sociology and Social Policy
SupervisorDavid Rosser PHILLIPS (Supervisor) & Cheung-ming Alfred CHAN (Supervisor)

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