Ms. Lamiad wades through a dimly lit alley in Klong Toey’s Phattanamai neighborhood. The ramshackle concrete walls of homes adorn her on both sides of the meter-wide path. Although the weather is hot and humid, and Lamiad is already feeling tired from a morning of delivering health and wellness visitations to the elderly citizens of her neighborhood, she is pressing on as she knows she is providing a vital service for her community. Lamiad herself is 60 years old and has dealt with her own health scares, such as Meniere’s disease, and yet rather than turning inward, she strives to not only overcome her own challenges, but also to support fellow community members in making their twilight years their most healthy and rewarding years yet.
Aging is a growing concern in Thailand with the potential to destabilize large segments of society. Within the next decade, more than one out of every five Thai citizens will be at least 60 years old, making the country “super aged” and leading to a host of economic and healthcare challenges. Kenan Institute Asia has identified promoting a healthy aging society as one of its five key challenges to be addressed in Thailand. To further this goal, Kenan has partnered with the Pfizer Foundation to implement the Pfizer Healthy Aging Society project, a forward-looking project that is introducing a holistic approach to healthcare in Thai communities in order to prepare seniors and pre-seniors for quality aging.
Lamiad, a service-oriented individual with a long history of volunteerism, has taken a leading role in embedding the project’s approach into Bangkok’s Klong Toey community. With its team of community and public health experts, Kenan has strengthened the capacity of Lamiad and 80 other health volunteers to deliver exercise, nutritional and mental health guidance for at-risk community members.
Since completing the training, Lamiad applied for and received a grant from the project to launch a support group to promote mental and physical wellbeing. Applying the project’s holistic model, Lamiad leads an exercise class three times per week, organizes regular meditation sessions, and raises awareness for non-communicable disease prevention strategies. Advances in medicine have enabled people to live longer but not necessarily better. As people age, they are increasingly at risk of suffering from non-infectious health conditions, including hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, which can significantly hamper one’s way of life. The project’s model works because it both reduces the risk of developing non-infectious conditions and promotes mental and social wellbeing, enabling seniors to maintain active and fulfilling lifestyles as they age.
Through the project, Lamiad has discovered that quality aging involves much more than knowledge and exercise alone. Because many group members feel dejected after battling illness or facing financial upheaval, Lamiad ensures that each meeting is energetic, positive, and welcoming. Lamiad emphasizes that “we provide chitchat, happiness and a friendly time” to build a sense of community and belonging among group members. The community element that Lamiad added to her initiative has enabled the critical knowledge and habits about health and wellness to take root.
Strong, local leaders like Lamiad are essential for building communities capable of overcoming Thailand’s greatest challenges, such as the demographic shift. For this reason, Kenan is committed to empowering individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to foster resilient and sustainable communities.