We must prepare for an aged society
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We must prepare for an aged society

In mid-April, the Songkran Festival welcomes the Thai New Year with water splashing and people getting wet.

The long holiday also allows people to return to their hometown and enjoy time with family.

Households can celebrate National Family Day on April 14, which was designated by the Thai government in 1989 to underline the importance of the primary social institution and strengthen family ties.

Next Monday, we can expect another celebration along with the rest of the world as it will be the UN's International Day of Families.

The UN began focusing on family-related issues in the 1980s. In a resolution dated Dec 9, 1989, the General Assembly proclaimed that the International Year of the Family would be celebrated in 1994.

Another resolution in 1993 determined that May 15 should be observed as the International Day of Families, and the first celebration took place in 1994.

Under various themes, each edition provides an opportunity to raise awareness of social, economic and demographic issues affecting families.

Last year's theme, Families and Urbanization, highlighted the importance of sustainable and family-friendly urban policies.

Sustainable urbanisation is linked to the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), such as SDG 11 to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

The set of 17 goals was adopted by the UN's member states on Sept 25, 2015. Family-oriented policies and programmes are vital for the achievement of many of these goals.

This year, the International Day of Families will raise awareness of the impact of demographic trends on families.

According to the UN, the world's population reached 8 billion people last year. By 2030, nearly 12% of the world's population will be 65 years or older, and by 2050, the average lifespan will be around 77.2.

Thailand has reached the status of an aged society, as the share of people aged 65 or older passed 14%. The UN further defines a super-aged society as a share of the elderly above 20%, and Thailand will progress to this status in the future.

Recommendations include adapting public programmes to the growing proportion of elderly and improving the sustainability of social security and pension systems, which is crucial for the overall well-being of the family.

Just as important is establishing universal healthcare and long-term care systems.

Longevity is a blessing as long as you can maintain good health and vitality. But in many cases, extended life comes with illnesses demanding long-term care.

Traditionally, co-residing family members take care of the elderly and this is largely still the case in Thailand. Globally though, intergenerational co-residence is declining, requiring other care models.

While more seniors will be populating the planet, the UN also has observed declining fertility rates shaping the demographic trend.

Low fertility rates can undermine the labour force and social structures.

The benefit of small families is that parents can invest more in their children's health and education. On the other hand, families will have fewer members to rely on when facing unemployment or illness.

Other observations include how families are impacted by nuptiality patterns, with a decrease in marriage and an increase in divorce, separation and widowhood as well as social norms leaning towards solitary living.

Next Monday on the occasion of the International Day of Families, various issues will be discussed at an event hosted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the headquarters in New York.

This will include a presentation of the World Social Report 2023 "Leaving No One Behind In An Ageing World".

Following the rapid demographic changes and the next shift towards a super-aged society, proactive policies need to be created in Thailand in order to promote the well-being of families and ensure that no one is left behind.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram

Feature writer

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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