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Social isolation in Hong Kong: is social enterprise a solution?

In the first blog from the Social Enterprise World Forum 2016, Chief Development Officer, Roger Moors visits social enterprises in Hong Kong tackling social isolation in an ageing population.

Hong Kong ranks as one of the most densely populated places in the world. You’re likely to live 2.36 years longer than you would do in the UK but share that life with with no fewer than 7.2M other folk in what is an incredibly confined space. The irony is that for a city so densely populated and with a chronic ageing demographic, people have never been so alone and in need of help.

Senior Citizen Home Safety Association is a social enterprise based in Hong Kong that provides support, friendship and a relationship at the end of a telephone to 80,000 elderly members. I visited them today and there’s no doubting it’s hugely inspirational and incredibly impactful but I couldn’t help thinking what it says about our relationship with family and those of a senior age in particular.

Then a brief visit to an upmarket secondhand shop called Green Ladies where the recycling and reuse of quality clothing is very much at the heart of their social objectives before fast forward to Gingko House, a restaurant where all the waiters and waitresses have silver hair (if they have any) and most are in their late 60s or early 70s. Using their skills and knowledge acquired over many decades it seemed to illustrate perfectly the contrasting facets of social enterprise.

Both SCHSA and Gingko House have their place and both do incredible things for the elderly in this crazy crazy city but maybe there’s something that the Gingko restaurant folk may have understood and taken something really significant from the good people at Green Ladies.

In a throw away society, maybe we should be worrying less about one use coffee cups and empty wine bottles and thinking more about people. When it comes to old age I really like the concept of reuse and up-cycling as there’s a certain dignity about finding enterprising ways to engage the elderly rather than simply coping with the impact of fractured family life. Hong Kong is big and busy and problems of social isolation are not confined to this city alone but enterprises that recycle skills and offer real engagement for the elderly offer much more than a voice at the end of the line.