“Thailand’s population is rapidly aging and will have a huge impact on all of us.” said Siriwan Aruntippaitune, Expert on the Elderly at Thailand’s Department of Older Persons (DOP), “Many entities, including the media are frequently raising this topic to the public, however, most of us, especially the working age population, are unaware of the various challenges we are going to face very soon” she continued.
The founding of the DOP in 2015 under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security of Thailand demonstrates that the Thai government is increasingly taking population aging seriously. Since 2005, Thailand has become an aging society which means 10 percent of its population is over 60 years of age. In addition, the older population grows by around four percent a year as people are living longer, while the birth rate is declining.
In 2015, according to research by the Foundation of Thai Gerontology Research, Thailand has around 11 million aging people, accounting for 16 percent of the population. It is expected that by 2021, the proportion of Thailand’s aging population will reach 20 percent, making the country a complete aged society.
Facing the inevitable future
Siriwan stated that health issues are the key challenges for the elderly in Thailand, “We are facing a challenge relating to demand of care for around 200,000 people who have become vulnerable. This group needs special support in their daily lives, relative to their physical condition. Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health recently completed the development of its long-term care plan for the vulnerable group and has started developing a concrete policy to manage care manager and caregiver manpower,” she said.
Both reactive and preventive care should be implemented simultaneously to tackle Thailand’s aging situation in time, according to Siriwan. Health literacy must be promoted widely so that the public are aware of unhealthy lifestyle and nutritional habits that lead to illness. Medical expenses have an effect on not only personal finance but also the country’s financial system.
“Most Thai people are still unprepared and lack retirement planning knowledge,” Siriwan added, “According to recent data from the Bank of Thailand, Thai Generation Y (18-35 years old) are not equipped to save for retirement. Most are spending more than they earn, leading to debt. If they do not develop solid financial habits, they will face financial issues upon retirement,” she said.
Fostering a healthy aging society
To address Thailand’s rapidly aging population and its impact on individuals, the economy and society as a whole, Siriwan asked all public and private sectors to join forces.
“All sectors can help by sharing their knowledge and resources to support a long-term care system for the country. The Bank of Thailand and The Stock Exchange of Thailand, for example, have been running a campaign promoting retirement saving. The government-funded OTOP (One Tambon, One Product) has been supporting entrepreneurial efforts to improve their income. Thailand now needs an NGO leader to represent the rights and well-being of the elderly.”
To respond to the challenge of Thailand’s aging population, The Pfizer Healthy Aging Society Project was launched last year, implemented by Pfizer Foundation Thailand and Kenan Institute Asia. The project aims to establish a sustainable preventive health care approach for pre-seniors and seniors to support quality aging in Thailand. Siriwan added, “This is a good initiative from Thailand’s commercial and NGO sectors. Health literacy building will help improve the quality of life of the elderly, while addressing health issues which are the key challenge for Thailand’s aging society today. I believe that the pilot implementation will help us gain new insights to extend the work to other areas in the future.”