Future Perfect: The Project Futurus’ youthful Queenie Man is redefining how society supports its older citizens and its ageing population

In a brightly lit Tsuen Wan studio, office and showroom, a short trip northwest from the bustling heart of Hong Kong, Queenie Man is on a mission to transform the way the world perceives ageing. With her infectious energy and unwavering determination, the visionary founder and CEO of The Project Futurus is shattering stereotypes and rewriting the narrative around what it means to grow old. 

Bright-eyed and short-haired, the busy millennial has already carved out an impressive career, blending her expertise in branding and marketing with her passion for revolutionising the elderly services industry. After nearly a decade as a global brand strategist for Fortune 500 companies, she made the bold move, in 2017, to join the eldercare sector, driven by a desire to make a tangible difference in the lives of older adults. The Project Futurus, her innovative social enterprise, was born in 2019.

“I decided it needed a bit of magic and storytelling because no one can avoid ageing, but you can talk about it in a way that people connect with,” explains Man, her face aglow with enthusiasm. “I started thinking about how to make ageing not only sexy but relevant.”

And that is precisely what she has done. The Project Futurus tackles ageism head-on, rebranding the experience of growing older and empowering seniors to embrace their golden years with dignity and purpose.

“We hope to be able to give back in ways that are not only addressing the real needs of our community but also are meaningful,” she stresses. “We want to connect corporations to impact initiatives that speak to their core values and strengths, and yield a positive impact on those we care about in the community. Above all, these innovations should create a positive outlook on ageing for all of us in ways that resonate and relate to each of us.”

In tandem with The Project Futurus, she is Managing Director of Forward Living, a residential care home for the elderly in Tuen Mun, and elderly-care-services provider Culture Homes, as well as being a Member of the Hong Kong government advisory body the Elderly Commission and on the board of AIDs Concern. She earned her degree in business administration, with a focus on marketing and information systems, at the University of Washington, and is currently seeking a master’s in dementia studies from the University of Stirling. 

“If I could own a superhuman ability, I hope I can stretch the dimension of ‘time’ so that I can have more time to work on impact initiatives. There are so many impact projects I would like to get started, but I am always running out of time. Time is never enough!”

Caring career path

When young Queenie was in her final year of secondary school, her grandmother fainted when her pacemaker stopped working in the middle of the night. An ambulance was called and the pacemaker was replaced just in time. This harrowing incident was a pivotal moment that would shape the teenager’s future and inspire her eventual career path.

“My grandmother always enjoyed cooking and was very picky about her food. She loved eating the tail of a steamed fish because it was the best part. She used to make mouth-watering pork stews with preserved vegetables. She would make me coconut sugar pancakes as an after-school snack. Good times!” she recalls fondly. “Having experienced caring for my grandmother, particularly in the last stage of her life, I felt a strong calling to join the elderly-care industry to change the narrative on ageing.”

Her childhood experiences, from the treasured meals shared with her grandmother to the frightening ambulance emergency, had a profound impact, setting her on a path to make a difference in the lives of the elderly. In more ways than she could have imagined, she is honouring her grandmother’s memory and ensuring that all elderly residents can enjoy the dignity, choice and joy that her beloved grandmother experienced in her later years.

Future value

The Project Futurus operates across three key pillars. “First we enhance elder’s wellbeing through meaningful community engagements,” says Man. “Then, there is dignified dining solutions for those with swallowing difficulties. The last area is to raise awareness on ageing and promote social inclusion through community service.”

One of the enterprise’s most captivating initiatives is the Sensory Restaurant on Wheels, which brings the joy of dim-sum dining to seniors in care homes and community centres. The project revolves around a nostalgic atmosphere, complete with vintage items and soothing sounds of classic Cantonese tunes that transport participants to a bygone era. “My colleagues and I recreate a nostalgic look and feel by purchasing old props and playing old songs so the [residents], many of whom have dementia, feel like they’re in a restaurant,” she explains. 

The catchy-titled Captain Softmeal programme, which Man has since brought to Singapore, is another essential for improving the quality of elderly life. “I created Captain Softmeal because there were little information about dysphagia, or swallowing difficulties, a cause of elderly malnutrition. Why are we giving patients [in hospitals or residents in care homes] purée or porridge when we have many ways to make texture-modified foods that are appealing and nutritious?”

Through Nordic-inspired senior community Forward Living and The Living Gallery, an ageing-in-place concept store under the auspices of Culture Homes, she further widens the reach of her passion for rebranding age. Additionally, having been appointed to the Elderly Commission last year, Man provides vital input on the formulation of comprehensive policies to support the city’s ageing population.

Age is just a number

“When we talk about ageing in Hong Kong, we have to consider policy, mindset, society and career,” she says. “I’ve faced ageism too. I always hear, ‘You’re too young to be managing an elderly home. Do you know what you’re doing?’ I don’t think age matters. What matters is your vision, your commitment, the purpose of the work you do.”

Black suit jacket by Prada

Man’s unwavering commitment to championing the cause of the elderly is rooted in her own personal experiences and the changing landscape of ageing. “This year marks the fifth year of The Project Futurus. As I step into my late 30s, the work I do, the amazing people I meet and the smiles I see on elders’ faces give me this sense of renewed purpose,” she shares. “The idea of being able to leverage my creativity to impact-making is the reason I wake up every day. We create our own opportunities, and everything is possible as long as we believe in it.”

As she continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the realm of elderly care, her inspiring story serves as a testament to the power of vision, innovation and a relentless drive to make a difference. Through her work, she is not only rebranding age but also redefining the way society perceives and supports its older citizens, paving the way for a future where ageing is celebrated, not feared.

Interview, Text and Art Direction by: Joseff Musa Photographer: Jack Law Videographer: Jack Fontanilla