Improving Community Health for Healthy Aging
“Will they be lonely? Will they be left alone? What will they have for breakfast, lunch and dinner?”
Wassana Tadthong worries about her elderly neighbors who have no spouse, children, or siblings remaining. With no loved ones to turn to and a social safety net unable to bear the weight of Thailand’s rapidly aging population, many seniors are abandoned or squeaking by on meager resources.
For Wassana, a community health volunteer responsible for supporting vulnerable members of her village in Ubon Ratchathani, the plight of elderly neighbors is always at the top of her mind. However, providing quality care isn’t possible without proper training and resources.
Recognizing the enormous responsibility hoisted upon the shoulders of volunteers, Kenan and the Pfizer Foundation launched the Pfizer Healthy Aging Society project in 2016 to empower selfless individuals, like Wassana, with the knowledge and skills needed to help seniors and those approaching old age maintain an active, healthy and happy life.
Soon after receiving training, Wassana put her new knowledge to good use to help seniors in her village. One example she is proud of is the case of ‘Grandma Thin,’ a 93-year-old woman who had outlived her husband and children, and was left abandoned and isolated in her home. Grandma Thin had to survive on only 1,400 THB each month (or about $1.50 a day) from the government.
When Wassana began reaching out to support members of her village, she quickly identified that Grandma Thin was in trouble. In addition to providing direct support, Wassana connected Grandma Thin to the local hospital and the municipality’s health promotion agency.
“She is better now,” Wassana happily reports. “I am proud because there are people who go to take care of her…They have helped her and made her life better.”
The story of Grandma Thin puts a smile on Wassana’s face and motivates her to do more to help seniors in the village. To create a sustainable mechanism for elderly support, Wassana is in the process of setting up an elderly association in her village that would meet once a month for what she calls an “elderly party.” Beyond having fun with neighbors, the association aims to bring together villagers from all generations, from young children to Grandma Thin, to build connections and establish a support system for elderly community members.
“I want everybody to pay more attention to the elderly,” says Wassana, “because without them we would not have been born.”
And so, Wassana tirelessly leads change in the village by sharing her knowledge, identifying individuals in need, and connecting vulnerable neighbors to those who can help. As her efforts ripple through the village, she hopes never to see a neighbor left abandoned again.
To learn more about Kenan’s work to promote a healthy aging society in Thailand, visit www.kenan-asia.org/nextgen-aging