05.05. Is there any evidence of current or changing perceptions of dementia? If so, what is motivating these changes? | Hong Kong SAR

05.05. Is there any evidence of current or changing perceptions of dementia? If so, what is motivating these changes? | Hong Kong SAR

19 Aug 2022

The Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing conducted a public survey in 2005 and 2015 (Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing, 2015) to examine the change in knowledge about dementia in Hong Kong. The comparison showed that there was a changing perception of dementia, including improvement in knowledge and awareness towards dementia and a reduction in misconception. The findings also indicate that respondents paid more attention to the signs of early dementia and became more willing to bring their family to consult with physicians when dementia symptoms emerged.

This change in public perception could be attributed to multiple factors. First, in 2010, a working group comprised of ten medical professional bodies and other dementia campaigns had suggested to change the Chinese terminology of dementia in order to alter the way people perceive individuals with dementia. The original Chinese terminology of dementia was equivalent to ‘insanity’ and ‘idiocy’, in other words, a degrading name. In fact, the medical professionals believed that the negative connotation of the Chinese terminology largely contributed to the stigmatising attitudes towards dementia, which resulted in the delay of medical consultations and in the general public’s refusal to accept diagnosis (Working Group on New Chinese Terminology for Dementia and Cognitive Impairment, 2011). In 2012, the new name which signifies dementia as a cognitive disorder, was proposed by the working group to substitute the previous demeaning name, which attempted to reduce its stigmatising connotations (Chiu & Li, 2012). The new Chinese terminology of dementia was found to be more acceptable and the vast majority (87%) supported the substitution of old term (Chiu et al., 2014). The new Chinese name of dementia is widely adopted by the media, medical professionals, general public, and the Government.

Furthermore, Professor Charles K Kao, former Professor in the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Nobel Laureate in Physics in 2009, who was known as the “Father of Fibre Optics”, battled against Alzheimer’s disease since 2002. This significantly raised the public awareness about dementia and led the public to stop viewing dementia as a taboo. In addition, Charles K Kao and his spouse founded a foundation in 2010, namely The Charles K Kao Foundation, to raise public awareness of dementia and disseminate tips on caring the brain. In addition, there were local movies surrounding dementia (such as Happiness in 2016, The Tail Before in 2018) as well as television dramas (Forensic Heroes IV, Lo and Behold) that arouse the awareness of the disease, and enhanced understanding on individuals with dementia and care needs. Aside from this, a few celebrities also shared their stories and experiences about taking care of their family members who were diagnosed with dementia (such as Kara Wai Ying-Hung, Nina Paw Hee-Ching, and Kearen Pang).

Lastly, various dementia awareness campaigns conducted by different sectors and organisations targeting different audience groups in the past decade which included students, frontline workers, and caregivers, have deepened public understanding of dementia and influenced the way they perceive dementia.


Chiu, F. K., & Li, S. W. (2012). Recent Developments in Dementia: From New Diagnostic Criteria to a New Name [Editorial]. East Asian Arch Psychiatry, 22, 139-140.

Chiu, H., Sato, M., Kua, E., Lee, M., Yu, X., et al. (2014). Renaming dementia – an East Asian perspective. International Psychogeriatrics, 26, 885-887. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1041610214000453

Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing. (2015). Misconceptons about dementia 2015 – Factsheet for Press (v2 20150915) [Press release].

Working Group on New Chinese Terminology for Dementia and Cognitive Impairment. (2011). A new Chinese terminology for dementia and cognitive impairment. Hong Kong Med J, 17(4), 342.