By Aliwassa Pathnadabutr
Managing Director of CBRE Thailand
Special to The Nation
Thailand will soon become an aged society with more than 20 per cent of the population estimated to reach 60 years old by 2022. Though we are still at the beginning of our journey, other developed countries have already established this industry and have learned what works for them and what doesn’t. Cultural differences will impact the way that each nation cares for the elderly and each nation will create a model slightly different from the each other.
In markets with established senior living developments, there are three primary categories which are Active / Independent Senior, Assisted Living, and Nursing Home Care. The various types will cater to different stages of life and the needs associated with those stages. Active adult residences are generally more like regular apartments with extra attention given to accessibility and on-site staff available to help in the event it is needed while nursing homes are for later years in life when more comprehensive and intensive care is needed to carry out regular daily activities.
Developments catering to expat retired seniors are plentiful and are mostly in the form of resort-style properties found in locations such as Pattaya, Phuket, Hua Hin, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. Generally, these properties only cater to active seniors that can manage their day-to-day lives without any special personal assistance. On the other hand, for the Thai population, the senior living facilities are far and few between. The few existing schemes include assisted living and nursing homes. The most famous active senior homes that exist for Thais are generally for the lower end market. There are currently no selections of Active Senior Living developments for the middle to upper end of the market.
CBRE believes that Thai culture may be a limiting factor for the senior living developments as most Thai elders prefer to live with their families. However, this may change in the future due to decreasing birth rates and children’s migration to urban centers in search for work. The result is that there is going to be an increase of seniors that either have no children to look after them or who’s children are not capable of looking after their parent’s due to work and life requirements. Even today around 50 per cent of seniors do not live in the same town as their children and approximately 16 per cent have no living children at all. For now, senior living developments
is not a market that many developers have not tapped due to the complication of implementation; however, as the general housing market eventually peaks, senior housing needs may grow out of a niche and into a mainstream market big enough that some pioneering developers will create solutions for implementation.
It is a matter of defining the balance between Thai cultural tradition and a housing model that will serve the needs of a generation of seniors with no children to depend on. We do not believe models which work in the West copied in Thailand would necessarily be appropriate solutions for Thai culture, especially for the upper end of the market. But we do believe that individuals reaching senior age, with no one to depend on, will begin looking for a place with a community that they can feel safe in and cared for.