A problem facing many countries with ageing populations is how best to help senior citizens lead happy and active lives. According to a study conducted by HSBC and market research company TNS, one of the keys is to find ways for older people to keep working.
The survey found that 63 per cent of the 1,003 elderly respondents felt they had surrendered their career identity when they retired, and 71 per cent said they had lost a sense of excitement about life. Furthermore, 52 per cent of those who replied indicated they would be willing to return to work by taking part in an employment programme tailored to meeting the needs of older people.
To cater to this interest, HSBC launched its "Smart Seniors" programme this year. The aim was to recruit 80 part-time staff to promote and manage the bank's Community Caring Corners, areas dedicated to looking after elderly customers and those with special needs.
As a start, it was decided to establish special areas in each of the bank's 20 busiest branches. They were equipped with interactive touch screen kiosks, providing customers with information about the latest community banking initiatives.
Francesca McDonagh, HSBC's head of personal financial services in Hong Kong, says the feedback from customers and staff has been positive. The senior team's contribution has helped improve the bank's services and strengthened client contacts.
"I would encourage other institutions to be flexible and open-minded about recruiting people who have retired, but still have an active role to play in the community," she says.
The senior workers, who are on duty for nine hours a week, have responsibilities that include directing customers to the appropriate counters for different banking services, showing how to make the most of online services and promoting the use of ATMs among elderly customers.
New hires receive two days of training, which covers essential information about the bank's background, structures and banking services, before being assigned to a specific branch.
Lee Wing-hing, 59, who used to work for PCCW, says the programme has been a great source of continuous learning.
"In the training, we learned a lot about the banking industry and, for me, it was all new knowledge," says Lee, who retired four years ago. "Besides, it makes me feel good that I can still contribute to society in this way."
Alex Tse, 56, is one of the "Smart Seniors" working at the bank's Causeway Bay branch. He retired from his previous job with Watsons Water and, after spending a year travelling, wanted something useful to occupy his time.
"I want to keep in touch with people and feel part of society, rather than staying at home and watching television every day," Tse says. "I saw the advertisement for 'Smart Seniors' and thought it could be a good opportunity for me."
HSBC launched the programme in February to give retirees an opportunity to return to work and keep contributing to society
The programme's part-time jobs focus on promoting the bank's Community Caring Corners