The Student Affairs Office of Hong Kong Metropolitan University (HKMU) recently organised the “Portraits of the Elderly: Journey of Life Exhibition” on campus, aiming to promote life and death education through various creative activities, including the installation of Hong Kong's first ever “Before I Die” message wall and a “Photography Services for the Elderly” photo album. The aim of the exhibition was to encourage the participants to reflect on the value and importance of life while raising awareness about the welfare of the elderly. The four-day event received a positive response, attracting nearly 400 students and staff.
Promoting life reflection: the “Before I Die” message wall
The “Before I Die, I want to…” message wall is a global community artwork that encourages participants to share and reflect on their aspirations, and rethink the meaning of life through writing their unfulfilled wishes on a dedicated wall. The campaign has gained remarkable popularity worldwide, with more than 5,000 walls established across the globe. The installation at HKMU marks the first of its kind in both the University and Hong Kong.
Sharing Life Experiences: “Photography Services for the Elderly”
The “Photography Services for the Elderly” programme is one of the service-learning programmes offered by the University. Student volunteers participating in the project provided make-up services and captured personal photos of the elderly, providing them with fond memories. The exhibition showcased the photography works of the student volunteers, along with the “Elderly's Memory Books”, which document the stories of various older people, illuminating their unique narratives, wisdom and resilience.
Various experiential learning activities were organised, including the “Love Mail” activity, which provided postcards for visitors to send heartfelt messages to their family, friends or partners. The “Life in Five Senses Board Game” allowed players to reflect on their own wishes for old age, while exchanging ideas with others about future healthcare and personal care.
The participating students said the exhibition helped them break the taboo about death and re-examine the value and meaning of life. Lee Chun-leung, a Year 1 student in the Higher Diploma in Nursing Studies (General Health Care) programme, wrote two wishes on the message wall: “Help the needy” and “Travel around the world”. He said that he found the event meaningful and that it made him more courageous in facing the realities of life and death. “Having previously worked in residential care homes for the elderly, where I saw many older patients bedridden the whole day long, I decided that I wanted to enjoy my life and help others while I am still physically fit,” he said.
Ng Ting-hei, a Year 3 student in the Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Creative Writing and Film Arts programme, mentioned that she had never thought about what she would like to accomplish before the end of her life, but that this event has inspired her to turn her aspirations into action. “Hong Kong students often struggle to define their life goals,” she said. “By writing down our wishes on the message wall, we can motivate everyone to take the first step forward.”