Seniors not a burden
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Seniors not a burden

The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security's host family programme deserves a big round of applause, as it is an example of a proactive social welfare policy. The only problem with it is that the budget earmarked for the programme, at just 39.8 million baht annually, is far too small.

Under the planned programme, which was pushed forward by Minister of Social Development and Human Security, Varawut Silpa-archa, the ministry will provide 3,000 baht in assistance to individuals who have registered to take care of their poor, elderly relatives and/or friends.

The government hopes the subsidy will allow them to provide better care with consistent financial support from the state.

Those who wish to qualify for the subsidy must prove that both they and the individual they intend to take care of come from a low-income background.

Any Thai citizen aged 18 and over can apply for the subsidy. An individual can sign up to take care of more than one individual as long as their family consents and they live in the same area.

The scheme, which is meant to foster a community-based support system for senior citizens, is a big departure from past government's efforts to provide care for the nation's elderly.

In the past, the ministry would invest in a facility for senior citizens, such as Ban Bang Khae, that would be tasked with providing care to those who needed it.

These facilities are far from adequately equipped to deal with the increasing number of senior citizens whose relatives do not have the capacity or resources to take care of them at home.

The host family programme was so well-received that not long after registration opened on Saturday, rumours immediately spread that the government was no longer taking applications.

One can only hope that the ministry will make this a permanent project, not just another ad hoc scheme that will be scrapped as soon as Mr Varawut leaves office.

To improve the scheme, the government should consider expanding the programme to cover not just low-income individuals, but also the nation's growing middle classes.

Thailand is an "aged" society, as over 20% of the country is over 60 years old. While the number of senior citizens continues to grow each year, the number of youths who can provide care for them decreases with each passing year.

As a result, many senior citizens in Thailand have to spend a fortune on private nursing homes.

This host family programme is a good and encouraging start. Yet, a lot more still needs to be done.

Instead of simply providing care for the elderly, the government should work towards creating an environment where elderly people not only live but also work and actively contribute to society.

Perhaps policymakers should consider raising the retirement age or allowing individuals over a certain age to serve in other capacities in public companies -- as experts, for instance, as opposed to executives.

City administration and local authorities must create more urban facilities, such as parks and walkways, that encourage an active lifestyle.

We have to remember that more working individuals mean more taxes and Social Security Fund contributions, which will benefit everyone.

With a good social welfare policy, elderly people can be a resource -- not a burden.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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