According to the results of the 2016 Population By-census of the Census and Statistics Department, the number of elderly living alone has increased over 50% in the past 10 years, from 98,829 in 2006 to 152,536 in 2016. Elderly can be left behind and live alone for many reasons. 72-year-old Madam Tsang found herself all alone in Hong Kong after her husband passed away and her son moved abroad in 2021. Thankfully, she found support and company again in The Salvation Army Yaumatei Multi-Service Center for Senior Citizens.

Remorseful and lonely after losing partner

It has been over one year since her husband passed away. Looking back to the old days, Madam Tsang cherishes the memories, but there is also remorse. In 2019, out of the worry that she might not be able to take care of both herself and her husband, she decided to send him to a nursing home despite his reluctance. Her husband passed away a year later due to heart disease, and Madam Tsang was unable to visit him frequently in his last days due to the pandemic. The decision of sending him to a nursing home and not being able to spend quality time with him at the very end have become Madam Tsang’s big regrets.

Soon after the parting of her husband, her son left Hong Kong with his family. Though her son has suggested to bring Madam Tsang, she eventually decided to stay in Hong Kong. Trying to remain strong and positive, Madam Tsang filled her days with activities and gatherings, hoping that could lighten the grief of losing her spouse. However, she still felt heavy-hearted even with a packed schedule. She tried to talk to friends but did not get positive feedbacks. As the reminiscence of the past was too depressing for her, she lost her appetite and started to have sleeping problems. Her emotion issues got worsen when the pandemic continued and limited her social activities. Finally, through the referral of Senior Citizen Home Safety Association, she started to accept support from The Salvation Army.

Take the Helping Hand

Social workers from the Army made communications with Madam Tsang over the course of months to learn about her physical, emotional and social needs through various ways, hoping she could feel the support and care. During the pandemic, the amount of news and information was overwhelming, and it could be difficult for elderly to catch up and understand. Social workers visited Madam Tsang and brought her the anti-pandemic supplies and correct information, so that she did not need to cope with the hard time all by herself. Knowing she was lack of exercises when staying home, social workers shared exercise videos with her and encouraged her wo work out and stay healthy.

Later when the pandemic eased, social workers taught Madam Tsang how to make video calls so that she could talk to her son and daughter-in-law abroad, who she always misses. Herr days can be brightened up with just a short call or a caring message. The pandemic situation worsened again near the Chinese New Year, the Center has prepared gift pack containing rice, dried mushrooms and soup base packets for Madam Tsang, bringing her warmth in the festival season.

Madam Tsang came to understand that she is not lonely even she lives alone. ‘Now I have two social workers from the Army supporting me, who I can really talk yo. It is good to know there are still people who care for me and supporting me.’ She no longer has to bottle up her feelings. The constant care of social workers gives Madam Tsang a sense of security and she feels safe to open her heart as mutual trust has been developed between them.

The Salvation Army Yaumatei Multi-service Centre for Senior Citizens – Elderly Support Service
The team is currently serving elders in Yau Tsim Mong district, both living with spouse and living alone, among which some of them are ‘elderly singletons’ who live by themselves completely. Social workers are designated for each elder to provide comprehensive support for the physical, emotional and social aspects including daily life support, emotional care and referral services. Amid the pandemic, according to respective situations of our elderly members, the team maintains limited home visit services and provide assistance. Social workers make calls to elderly at least once a month to learn about their latest situations. More frequent connections will be given depending on their conditions. We also arrange volunteers to constantly care about the elderly by making phone calls.