An elderly woman pushes a cart with a cardboard box for recycling in Hong Kong on March 8, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)

A political adviser from Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, has urged departments in the southern metropolis to strengthen cooperation with their counterparts in the elderly care sector in the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions in order to connect their respective medical and social security systems. 

The aim of the proposal is to make it more convenient for elderly residents of Hong Kong and Macao to settle in Guangzhou and enjoy retirement there, explained Shirley Tsang, a Hong Kong member of the Guangzhou Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

"The expansion of medical care cooperation for the elderly among the three regions will benefit everyone," said Tsang, who is western projects general manager and director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office at Clifford Group, a Hong Kong company involved in property development, medical services, education and investment.

In her proposal presented to this year's session of Guangzhou's top advisory body in January, Tsang said that making it more convenient for more elderly residents of Hong Kong and Macao to move to Guangzhou would also help attract high-level talented individuals from the two SARs, who would no longer have to worry about leaving their parents behind, and their participation would boost Guangdong's economy and increase its overall competitiveness.

Guangzhou — which is less than an hour by high-speed train from Hong Kong — is considered a livable city by many Hong Kong residents as both cities have a similar cultural heritage and the people speak the same language, Cantonese.

According to statistics released by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department in 2020, more than 90,000 permanent Hong Kong residents age 65 and older were already living in Guangdong — mostly in Guangzhou — a figure that had increased by 85 percent over the course of the previous decade.

Tsang said that figure should continue to grow in the months to come as cross-border infrastructure improves in the three regions, but added that further changes were needed if Guangdong was to become attractive to a wider range of talented SAR residents.

"More talented individuals from Hong Kong and Macao can be enticed to live and work in Guangzhou once their worries regarding entrepreneurship, and living and working conditions are resolved," she told China Daily.

Many parents of talented SAR residents are reluctant to accompany their children to Guangzhou because they do not enjoy the same level of medical care there that they do at home, and they also do not have medical insurance in Guangzhou.

Tsang urged departments in Guangzhou to improve communication and cooperation with the Hong Kong SAR government and encourage research at the government level to smooth the process of relocation, including setting up a system under which the SAR governments would partially subsidize medical costs for elderly residents who choose to accompany their children to the mainland.

"This will not only enhance Guangzhou's attractiveness to talented individuals from Hong Kong and Macao, but also reduce the pension pressures on the two SAR governments," she said.

Kenneth Chan, chairman of the Elderly Services Association of Hong Kong, said that Hong Kong and Guangdong province have plenty of room for cooperation in elderly care.

"Hong Kong has had the longest average life span in the world for seven consecutive years," he said, adding that in addition to the city's standard of medical treatment, high-quality nursing care is behind the longevity of its residents.

"So Hong Kong's deep experience of nursing care for the elderly and its resources can be brought to other cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to benefit the elderly everywhere."

Guangzhou's Nansha New Area, which is home to a number of Hong Kong-style housing estates and communities, is particularly suited to Hong Kong's elderly.

Chan suggested that the building of care and medical facilities for seniors that meet Hong Kong standards would be helpful.

He also urged the creation of a training platform for nursing care workers in Nansha New Area to improve standards and meet demand. He added that both sides can also expand cooperation and exchange on training.

Zhu Ruiqi contributed to this story.

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