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Studies in Applied Geography and Spatial Analysis

Addressing Real World Issues

Edited by Robert Stimson and Kingsley E. Haynes

This timely and fascinating book illustrates how applied geography can contribute in a multitude of ways to assist policy processes, evaluate public programs, enhance business decisions, and contribute to formulating solutions for community-level problems.
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Chapter 20: Managing environmental hazards of outdoor falls among the elderly population of Hong Kong

Poh-Chin Lau, Wing-Cheung Wong, Ming-Houng Chan, Chien-Tat Low and Martin Wong


Hong Kong is among the highest population density cities in the world. With a low birth rate, its population is ageing, particularly in many older settlements of Kowloon, including the Mong Kok district. Pedestrian movement in Hong Kong is chaotic (Wong, 2005). Peak flows reach 25 000 persons per hour for a typical street in Mong Kok, a result partly of high density and compact urban dwellings, but also because traditionally streets have been built to accommodate motor vehicles. Pedestrian walkways are mostly narrow and crowded because the needs of pedestrians have never been the planner’s top priority. Footbridges are intended to keep pedestrians from interfering with motor vehicles, rather than for their convenience. Traffic light timing facilitates vehicle movement more than pedestrians. Hong Kong has efficient public transport, with many bus stops located along streets. However, street-level trading activities compromise walking capacity and the environment of pedestrian pathways. Some of Hong Kong is steeply hilly with buildings distributed at different levels on the hillsides, staircases are common, as are ‘elevated’ pathways (an extensive footbridge network) for walkers. All this suggests that typical walking experiences in Hong Kong can be unsafe for pedestrians. Environmental risk factors include irregular ground surfaces, wet and slippery surfaces, narrow steps, long flights of stairs, street curbs and encroachments of other hazards on roads. These adverse situations are especially hazardous for the elderly population. The Accident and Emergency (AE) Department of the Kwong Wah Hospital (KWH), which provides primary care to residents in the Kowloon West area, had noticed a steady increase in the number of fall cases, particularly among the population 65 years and over for whom falls often result in lengthy medical care and costly follow-up treatment and rehabilitation.

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