TO BETTER cope with the ageing Thai society, Bangkok-based academics have urged the government to adjust land use and city planning laws to let agricultural areas with high potential become residential zones for seniors.
They also urged tax incentives for private operators of nursing homes catering to elderly Thais with no relatives as well as foreign retirees, with the latter group also helping boost the country’s income.
The concept of “Ageing in Place” – the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level – is most appropriate for use in the context of the ageing Thai society, said Antika Sawadsri, head of King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang’s Inclusive Designed Environment and Research Centre.
Antika said the modern era enabled younger generations to care for their elderly relatives using advanced technologies such as Internet-connected CCTV feeds linked to smartphones and an elderly persons’ fall surveillance system. Having the seniors staying in their familiar environment and community was better for their mental health, she said.
Home modification, which may cost about Bt100,000-Bt200,000 for each house, would be required for fall-proof bathrooms, more ramps, relocation of the elderly persons’ bedroom on the ground floor, or installation of an elevator or platform lift. The Social Development and Human Security Ministry subsidy of Bt20,000 for each house with an elderly person was not enough. She suggested low-interest loans from public banks as a solution.
Meanwhile communities should provide additional facilities such as common areas for the seniors’ meeting/activities, seating every 200 metres, wider and declustered footpaths, low-floor buses, and malls having wheelchair for customers’ use within premises. Such changes have been made in Japan – a good model for ageing society infrastructure, Antika added.
In a separate development to prepare for the ageing society, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation earlier this month signed a memorandum of understanding with five universities for setting up the Universal Design Centre (UDC). The central office has already been opened at Chulalongkorn University to provide counselling for home modifications and designs to accommodate elderly residents. The four other institutes are Chiang Mai University, Thammasat University, Maha Sarakham University and Prince of Songkhla University, each of which would establish a UDC regional branch office by August.
The move followed a report that an average of three senior persons died per day due to falls. Nearly 1,000 elderly died from complications caused by falling in 2014 and another 2014 survey said that only 24.6 per cent of the country’s houses with elderly residents had made proper home modifications.
Thailand is on the way to become a fully ageing society in three years, with 20 per cent of the population being those above age 60.