Get ready….The Elderly in Digital Age
At this day, the communication technology has taken us to the full-blown digital society. There are a wide range of high-technology devices that make our lives so practical, especially in terms of scientific advancement, and most importantly, in medicine and public health. They enable us to have good health, and good medical treatment, which lead to better human lifespan.
While the birth rate is on the decrease, the proportion of the elderly in the society soars. The elderly in the digital era like now must be well-cared and be prepared, because the elderly care is not limited to just healthcare, but it also covers the issues of economy, society, and environment.
The Healthy Community Network under ThaiHealth’s Healthy Community Strengthening Section, has continuously been pushing its efforts in developing the “Location-based elderly care system” with the network nationwide, by organising a workshop to develop the community health framework. With collaboration of 371 local administrative bodies from 59 provinces, ThaiHealth was prepared to leap on a proactive stance to promote good health in six aspects, which are alcohol- and accident-free community, community agriculture for food, smoke-free community, waste and pollution management, youth health development, and most importantly, the development of elderly care system.
Ms Duangporn Hengboonyapan, Director of Health Community Strengthening Section, said that the community health promotion service puts emphasis on the public. “Therefore, if we take the elderly seriously, the elderly care system will be the main drive to improve the community health in other aspects, such as in incubating young volunteers to provide care for the elderly in their communities.”
“As of now, we are collaborating with local administrative bodies that are strong enough to build own network in their respective communities. According to the plan, one centre will cover 20 areas in the collaborative network. Within the period of two years, we will have the self-reliant elderly care system and we will have a leverage on the policy’s footing to gain more support from the government in terms of elderly care. We will inquire about whether or not the elderly care system is necessary, how the assistance will go down to the public, whether or not the Nursing and Midwifery Council will have specific curriculum for elderly care for the graduates to have appropriate certificate, and what kind of organisation will the elderly care centre be…” Ms Duangporn gave a few examples.
She also added that, the complete elderly care centre, according to ThaiHealth, will be an organisation in the category of social enterprise with a model of a union of around five local administrative officials, ten primary healthcare officials, or even retired Tambon health promoting hospital staff members can set up a community elderly care centre. Its business will be on the basis of shares, but managed in the name of community, with self-designed business model by brainstormed idea within the community.
“We have had a discussion that there must be one or more certified nurses specialised in elderly care who can travel to provide care for the elderly at homes without requiring the elderly people in one building. The elderly care centre will take care of salaries on the nature and basis of social enterprise. We are currently laying out the plans and framework with a group of academics based on estimated number of patients and trends of diseases. We expect that, in two years from now, we will be having around 20 centres like this, with a hope to upgrade them into district-level centre eventually,” said Director of the third section.
On the academic side, Asst Prof Vipan Prachuabmoh of College of Population Studies, Chulalongkorn University, explained the reason why local communities must take care of their elderly population as quoted that, “As Thailand is speeding toward the time of Ageing Society and the most worrisome problem is our trending nature of single family. It’s expected that, in 25 years, the Dependency Ratio will plummet drastically. This means, the older persons will run out of people of labour force age to take care of them. So, the community should play the role to support the elderly and villagers to learn to take care of one another.”
Not long ago, there has been a news report about an elderly woman who had passed away but hasn’t been found until 10 months later. This is the reflection of reality about how the communities are taking care of their elderly. ThaiHealth wants to see a higher level of awareness in this matter, seek ways to prevent young villagers from leaving the community, support them to look after the elderly, provide stable employment for the elderly. The community governing body shall ensure that everyone including the elderly shall be entitled of economic security through sustainable agriculture, financial management, friendly environment, and public participation,” added Asst Prof Vipan. In conclusion, the ageing society is no longer a far-fetched issue. It’s an important matter not only for the younger generation or for the 60+ generation, but also for everyone in the society to prepare themselves and lay out the essential infrastructure for the elderly in their communities so as to make the best use of the elderly’s knowledge and wisdom in the development of communities.
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