Learning how to help the elderly stay healthy, productive and happy
Across the globe, populations are ageing. “In Hong Kong around 31 per cent of the population will be aged 65 or above, by 2036,” notes Professor Padmore Amoah, of Lingnan University’s School of Graduate Studies. “While in Mainland China, it is estimated around 30 per cent of the population will be 60, or above, by 2040.”
It’s therefore vital we gain a better understanding of the ageing process, adopt the necessary policies and strategies, and harness the appropriate digital technologies, to ensure members of this burgeoning demographic can continue to live healthy, independent, productive and happy lives for as long as possible.
To achieve these goals, society will require a greatly expanded workforce of professionals equipped with the latest relevant knowledge and skills. It is to this end that Lingnan University’s School of Graduate Studies and Hong Kong Metropolitan University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies have jointly developed a new Master of Science in Smart Ageing and Gerontology (SAG) programme, that will be launched in September 2022.
Successful completion of the programme will open up a growing number of opportunities in both the public and private sectors, in settings such as hospitals and healthcare centres, public health departments, information and technology firms, NGOs, community-based organisations and businesses providing health-related services. There, SAG graduates will be qualified to work as productive ageing officers and advisors, elderly health promotion officers, gerontechnology market researchers, and as gerontechnology promotion and training officers. They can also work as civil servants in health and social care facilities for older people.
What’s more, SAG graduates will be in a position to enrol for further studies in the fields of gerontology, public health, nursing and smart ageing policy.
What is new about this programme?
The SAG programme aims to equip students to tackle all the challenges related to the ageing process, such as poverty, disability, and social inequity. Among the key differentiators of this programme from others available in Hong Kong, though, is a focus on technology and data analytics.
“Lingnan has strong research and teaching expertise in the field of gerontechnology,” points out Dr Daisy Zhu of the university’s School of Graduate Studies, “Students will also learn how to analyse health-related data for management purposes.”
Gerontechnology can help enhance the well-being, quality of life and independence, of the elderly, as well as supporting their families and healthcare providers, through the application of assistive devices, rehabilitation equipment, biosensors and medical devices. With the support of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Lingnan has built a 2,000 sq ft “LU Jockey Club Gerontech-X Lab” on campus.
“This Lab hosts a variety of practical, every day technologies and equipment that older people can use,” explains Prof Amoah. The goal is to promote awareness among the public, provide hands-on experience of how gerontech products can enhance the quality of life of the elderly and their carers’, and inspire the development of new forms of innovative technology and social entrepreneurship.
Such technology can also play a key role in the implementation of the Hong Kong Government’s elderly care policy, which is based around the concept of “ageing in place”, in other words, enabling the elderly to remain in their homes and communities, and out of institutional care, for as long as possible.
Why a dual degree?
Successful graduates from the SAG programme will be awarded two master’s degree certificates; one from Lingnan University (LU) and one from Hong Kong Metropolitan University (HKMU). HKMU is considered the premier nursing education university in Hong Kong, with the School of Nursing and Health Studies, in particular, having world-class expertise, both in practice and research, in nursing and biomedical health. While LU is one of Asia’s leading universities in the fields of social policy, social care and social services research and practice. The partnership between the two universities has created a programme with an innovative and interdisciplinary curriculum. “Together we can offer students nine core courses spanning the fields of nursing, data science, social and health sciences, and ICT,” says Prof Amoah.
The four courses run by LU’s School of Graduate Studies are: Ageing Policies in Greater China; Research in Health and Social Services, which focuses on qualitative and quantitative approaches to researching health and social care management; Positive Gerontology, which is concerned with the physiological, cognitive, psychological and social changes that come with ageing, and; Data Analytics for Health Management, which introduces the key technologies that support healthcare analytics.
HKMU’s School of Nursing and Health Studies offers courses in Smart Ageing, which teaches students an understanding of the importance of big data in healthcare; Human Genomics: Implications for Human Health; Building Resilience in the Smart Era, which aims to enhance the capacity of students to survive adversity, and; Frailty Study, which aims to develop students knowledge and skills for managing the frail.
Finally, a Smart Ageing and Gerontology Capstone Project, run jointly by both universities, will enable students to put theory into practice to solve real-world problems.
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