At an elderly community center located at Ma On Shan, some ten volunteers recently participated in a training session listening to the sharing of two elders who have been benefited from Life Garden, a local elderly service project.
Launched in 2006 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong (ELCHK), Life Garden project aims to help the elderly people who show inclination of depression by reducing their negative feelings through various activities.
According to the latest statistics announced by the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong government, there were 852,796 people who are at or over 65 years old in Hong Kong in 2006, composing 12.4 percent of the total population.
Some studies results provided by ELCHK revealed that 12.1 percent of the people who are above 60 years old in Hong Kong showed symptoms of depression; for those who tried to commit suicide, over 80 percent were suffered from depression.
Writing life stories for the old people is one of the activities under the Life Garden project that has successfully assisted nearly a hundred local elder people to rebuild their lives.
Service Officer of ELCHK Amanda Chow, who organized the volunteer training session, said that the idea of writing life stories was to allow old people to rebuild their life experiences by recalling the past episodes in their lives, so that they can learn how to appreciate themselves from a new point of view, which in turn will help increase their own self-esteem.
Chow told reporters that each volunteer will be responsible for visiting an elder. After six to eight visits and interviews, the volunteers will write a tailor-made life story for each elder in the form of autobiography.
"Thank you for giving me a chance to express all bitterness in my life," Seventy-two-year-old Tong said at the training session that he used to be an unhappy person until he joined the Life Garden project in 2007.
Being brought up during war-time, Tong was always felt a sense of inferiority since he came from a poor family and he was uneducated.
"I have had a hard life, I used to thought my self as a useless person and felt ashamed telling others of my bad feelings," Tong was voluble during the sharing session which made people hard to imagine that he was a silent man before.
With the volunteers' care and guidance, Tong said that he has learnt how to express his own feelings and realized that there is nothing to be ashamed of experiencing hardship in life. Tong's negative mood has been relieved and he has become an active volunteer in the elder center.
"Unhappy experiences can also be shared by other people," Ms Yu, who is also over 70 and a beneficiary of Life Garden, said that the past cannot be changed, and what is important is to focus on the live affront.
Mid-age housewife Grace Lee joined the project as a volunteer and wrote a life story for an old women last year. She said that she herself gained a lot by listening to old people.
Apart from writing the life story, Grace also participated in other activities under the project such as accompanying old people to learn flower planting.
"I was moved and felt the joy when seeing the smiling face of old people during the planting activity," she said, adding "those are the happiness that cannot be bought by money."
(Xinhua News Agency March 22, 2008)