May 31, 2011

THAILAND: Housing programme supports Bangkok's elderly

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BANGKOK, Thailand / Bangkok Post / Business / Housing / May 31, 2011

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is moving ahead with a senior citizens' housing programme to support the capital's elderly, as the current number of homes for the elderly will be insufficient to accommodate the growing numbers of senior citizens.

Sawangkanives was launched by the Thai Red Cross for elderly residents.

Early this year, the Board of Investment agreed that more housing units for the elderly were needed in Bangkok but said more study was required.

"Baan Bang Kae 1 and 2, the current elderly shelters, are already full, and there's a long waiting list. These won't be enough to support the larger numbers expected in the future," said Thaiwat Triyapirom, director of the BMA's Housing Development Office.

He expects the new programme of building residential units for the elderly will be successful because the BoI will grant tax privileges to participating developers.

Eligible developers must have experience constructing elderly housing. Unit designs must incorporate medical equipment and special features such as reclining floors or elevators.

Bangkok has 6 million registered residents, 12-13% of whom are aged 65 and above.

However, most estimates put the capital's actual population at more than 10 million, including those who have relocated here for work or other purposes.

The BMA estimates the proportion of elderly will reach 20% of the city's population in the next decade.

Mr Thaiwat said Bangkok was entering an "elderly era" because birth and death rates were both declining.

Aliwassa Pathnadabutr, the managing director of the property agency CB Richard Ellis Thailand, said the country had yet to design very many property projects specifically targeting elderly Thais.

Broadly, two property types cater to this market - nursing homes and serviced residences attached to hospitals - but both have limited capacity.

Some small low-rise residential projects have been converted to nursing homes in the past, but these tend to fill up quickly.

Projects of this nature must take into account affordability, facilities required by the aged and on-site medical support.

The Thai Red Cross recently launched its second such project. Sawangkanives Phase 2 will comprise eight six-storey buildings with a total of 300 units worth a combined 270 million baht.

Phase 1, with 168 units priced from 850,000 baht, sold out.

Facilities include prayer, meeting and treatment rooms. Residents must be Thai and at least 55 years old.

As for serviced residences, Ms Aliwassa said those attached to hospitals target long-stay patients requiring extended recovery time and ongoing professional medical support.

These are aimed more at foreigners due to cost considerations.

Properties that target the elderly are specially designed, said Ms Aliwassa.

First, they should be located in the outer areas of the city, where traffic is less congested and the air quality is better, but still accessible from the central business district, she said.

On-site medical support is essential, along with direct hotlines to hospitals and police stations for emergencies.

In-room and common facilities should be designed with the needs of older residents in mind such as non-slip flooring materials in bathrooms, an in-room emergency line and wheelchair access.

Wheelchair ramps should also be installed throughout the project with clear signage, ample gardens and recreational space and extensive common areas. Also important is creating a sense of community among residents such as by scheduling regular activities.

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