The social networks of nursing-home residents in Hong Kong

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The degree of social support available to older persons who are institutionalised is under-researched. This study investigated the structural and functional support exchanges with their social network members of 72 nursing home residents in Hong Kong (58 women, 14 men). They were asked to identify their network members, to evaluate the degree to which each one was important in their lives, and to rate the support received from and provided to each individual. The participants reported few network members (average 2.6) and in many cases neither a spouse nor children were included. Only one-fifth of the participants reported a social network member in the nursing home, and most of those who did nominated a member of the staff. There were also few friends in their networks. On the whole, the participants were comparatively socially isolated. The findings were explained in terms of the shame associated by the Chinese with placement in an institutional home, cultural patterns of social support, changes in children's filial attitudes, home placement policies, and the management practices that accentuate the distance between the older person and family members around the time of institutionalisation. These inculcate a feeling of abandonment, and discourage family visits as well as social interactions within the home. Copyright © 2009 Cambridge University Press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-178
JournalAgeing & Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


Cheng, S.-T. (2009). The social networks of nursing-home residents in Hong Kong. Ageing & Society, 29, 163-178. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X0800771X


  • Social support
  • Nursing home
  • Hong Kong Chinese
  • Frail older people


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