This was a design competition entry for the Building Trust International future home design competition and we have received an honorable mention for our design.
SITUATION: AGING HONG KONG
The average life expectancy of the Hong Kong population has just reached its new height, 82.2 years old, ranking number 2 in the world below Japan. There are one million people aged over 60 living here today, of which 13.7% reside in elderly homes.
Traditionally, the eldest son of a Chinese family is obliged to take care of his parents. The best term that transcribes the virtue of Xiao is filial piety. This has deeply influenced the traditional Chinese architectural typology, such as the Siheyuan Courtyard House.
As Hong Kong land value sky-rockets, an average middle-class family of 4 can barely afford a 40sq.m apartment. Such a flat roughly allocates 10sq.m to each family member. Land scarcity is driving most elderly to the decision of moving away from their children and joining an elderly home.
Public elderly homes are decently sized: each standard room is approximately 15sq.m and is shared between two people of the same gender. However, the average waiting time is 6 years. Thus, many families have chosen private elderly homes which are expensive. The family would have to pay 5000 to 7000 HKD (500-700 Euros) per month for each parent’s stay.
Living space in private elderly homes is restricted to less than 4sq.m per person. These homes are infamously coined “coffins for the living”. The standard living unit for 13.7% of Hong Kong elderly shockingly subtracts to a very basic bed that is partly partitioned by 3 walls of 1-metre-high Formica-laminated plywood. As the canteen and sleeping areas are seldom partitioned, it is not difficult to imagine how the odour of cooked food would stain the bed sheets and clothing. Bear in mind that most elderly spend 90% of their time inside their home and 98% of them pass away there.
The greatest issue for elderly homes is privacy. What if the elderly are coupled? The home will still separate them according to their gender. On top of that, petty theft within homes is not uncommon.
Starting an elderly home in Hong Kong privately is extremely challenging as the rent for the premise is astronomical. At the end of the day, the elderly would have to bear all the rental costs if government subsidies are lacking. Building space is extremely limited in Hong Kong, with most options being the lower floors of apartment blocks in the city centre. Building an elderly home from scratch is near impossible.
Contrary to popular belief that the elderly are static and prefer time in bed, they do wish to travel. We all love to travel: We travel for knowledge, love or ideals. Travelling allows us to be alive again.
Boat cruises are among the most popular activities for the retired. The boat serves not only as a mode of transport but acts as a travel destination itself.
Let us move back to Hong Kong and the 4sq.m “coffins for the living”. What if this 4sq.m “coffin” suddenly acquires legs and moves? 4sq.m is approximately a train cabin size. What if the home moves with the person and eventually settles down in their utopia?
The surrounding scenery is ever-changing; our vision of the space is no longer limited by its physical construction.
DRIFT AWAY: FIRST VIRTUALLY, WITH WWW.SENIORLOVE.ORG
Q: How does it begin?
A: The journey begins once you are registered on the website WWW.SENIORLOVE.ORG Signing up is free. The website is maintained by a workforce of volunteers. Once you sign up, you are a member and have entered the virtual world of travelling.
Q: Do I have to travel?
A: No, you can simply use it as a social platform or a dating website. We believe that love and friendship invigorate life. We believe in the power of both virtual and physical architecture.
Q: Is meeting new people a must?
A: The website will pair you up with a range of travelling companions. Members can choose to either dwell alone or in the company of roommates.
Q: Will I be able to afford the cost of the trip?
A: It will take you 500-700 Euros per month for a tiny bed with no view in an elderly home. Why not spend the same amount of money on travelling with WWW.SENIORLOVE.ORG?
Q: What if I do not wish to settle down and head home instead?
A: If a person wishes to head home, the entire train cabin may be attached again and “move on” with passing WWW.SENIORLOVE.ORG trains that will stop by sponsored train stations.
Q: Where are the destinations?
A: The train starts at Hung Hom station in Hong Kong; it will then head to the north of China. We have selected these cities because they have been sponsored by the local municipality governments and their top local hospitals.
GROUNDWORK TEAM Tak Lee, Manfred Yuen, Miracle Hui
COMPETITION ORGANIZER Building Trust International / World Architecture Festival
AWARD Honourable Mention / Shortlisted for the Future Project Category