The Baan Mai village is located in Chiang Mai province in the northern part of Thailand. The village is home to about 54 households with 240 people in total. Fifty eight of these residents are composed of older people, and four of them are living alone.
The home of Prakai in the Baan Mai village
Prakai is an 85 year old woman who has been living alone ever since the passing of her husband about 10 years ago. For already 2 years now, she has been bedridden. She has a carer.
Prathana, who is her only daughter, is married but lives close by and visits most of the time. Prathana is employed as a nurse at a hospital in Chiang Mai, and she is also a teacher at a school for nurses. She paid 5,000 baht for Prakai’s wheelchair and 12,000 baht for the nursing care bed.
Prakai’s carer visits her every day. The woman has an 8,000 baht monthly salary. In other countries like Japan, the costs are covered by insurance. However, there is no such Thailand insurance (ไทยประกันชีวิต) like that of Japan which makes care a household expense.
Prakai receives a monthly old age pension of 600 baht from the Thai government. However, this is insufficient for the care that she needs. In addition to her old age pension, she receives a 10,000 baht monthly survivor’s pension since her late husband worked for a government bank.
Once per month, she goes to a public hospital on her wheelchair for a physical exam. Basic healthcare services under the universal healthcare scheme of the Thai government are free.
The Volunteer Care Network
Prakai is among the more fortunate older people living in Thailand because she has access to support and care.
Daughters have usually been shouldering the care burden in Thailand according to the Foundation for Older Persons’ Development (FOPDEV). The youngest daughter is usually expected to provide care to her parents. In the past years, there are many childless and single child families with a decrease in potential carers.
Instead, volunteers organized on a sub-district level are relied on by people living in rural areas. In Thailand, there are over 1 million volunteers helping in hygiene projects and regional health. There are 18 of them in Baan Mai. They receive a very minimal amount of 600 baht monthly but the desire to volunteer is intense due to their Buddhist roots.