11 July 2024

The world’s population is getting older. And Thailand is among the fastest-aging societies in the world. Of its 67 million population, more than 12 million Thais are elderly, according to the Department of Older Persons, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, with the majority of them in the 60-69 group.

Japan became the world’ first ‘super-aged’ society in 2006. By 2029, Thailand is expected to join Japan in this demographic trend, according to recent research carried out by Kasikorn Research Center (KResearch). This is due to a decrease in the population in the past three years.

The research shows that the number of newborns and adolescents between 2020 and 2022 has fallen.

The grey phenomenon is one of the biggest challenges that will face the Thai new government in setting policies. It also affects the sustainability of the country’s social welfare schemes and health care.

On the flip side, however, the aging population offers promising business opportunities, which many companies are looking to exploit. Seniors are living longer and consuming more. They also use more specific products and services that fit their lifestyles.

Analysts from Thailand’s leading research houses see new business opportunities this demographic shift brings in many sectors, among them age-friendly housing; medical and assistive devices; food and nutrition; and age-friendly lifestyle and wellness services.

A home for the ages

Analysts say the trend among healthy seniors with high purchasing power of wanting to live independently will drive demand for purpose-built retirement housing projects that are well-equipped with home-based assistive technology, which allow for discreet care and support to meet progressive levels of dependency in the future.

Meanwhile, the growing trend towards living alone amongst seniors who are unmarried or divorced, as well as an anticipated increase in the number of widowed elderly people, will open wider opportunities for the elderly care business. Foreign seniors could also be target customers for the services of upmarket nursing homes, especially with the number of long-stay foreign retirees continuing to increase.

Thailand ranks the world’s 9th in the 10 best places to retire in 2023 and the only Asian destination on the list compiled by Forbes Magazine.

A boom in the home medical and assistive devices sector

As the population ages, the medical device market including home care devices, assistive devices and wearable devices for the elderly will grow, analysts say. The devices can assist the elderly who choose to age at home, allowing them to live more independently, regain confidence and improve their quality of life.

According to KResearch, the Thai market for home medical and assistive devices for the elderly was valued at around 8-9 billion baht in 2021. Spending on this segment is expected to grow at an average rate of 7.8% per year in the next five years.

The market has been driven by the demand from non-hospital businesses including elderly care centers, nursing homes, and senior homes, and the need for more home use by the elderly with high purchasing power during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Home medical devices in high demand include blood pressure monitors, blood glucose meters, pulse oximeters, and suction machines. Hospital beds, wheelchairs, standing assist rails, non-slip flooring, ramps, and chair lifts are among the highest assistive devices sold.

No savings, huge debts: More and more Thai seniors struggling to survive

Personalized nutrition is shaping the food and health industry

With rising demand for a healthy lifestyle, conscious food choices, and preventive health measures, consumers are increasingly turning to diets that are individually tailored to meet their personal nutritional requirements and fit their lifestyles.

Krungthai Compass, a research house under Krungthai Bank, predicts the Thai personalized food market will reach 55 billion baht in 2025, with an average annual growth rate of 14.2%. This is supported by the growth of food technology and health technology trends and a change in food consumption behaviors during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Personalized health company Green & Organic Co Ltd says it has enjoyed steady growth since its inception in February 2022. The company provides meals based on individuals’ blood profiles to improve their personal blood readings and their overall health.

“We provided around 20,000 meals to customers last year. We’ve reached the same amount by the end of the first quarter of 2023. That’s amazing,” said Cholakarn Visutipitakul, managing director of Green & Organic Co Ltd, adding that the company is looking into opening new branches to serve the increasing demands of customers and diversify into the production of healthy snacks and cooking ingredients in the near future.

She said the majority of the company’s customers are seniors, most of them with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which can be caused by unhealthy diets and malnutrition, and individuals with health conditions.

“We have spent a great deal of our time working with our senior customers and their caregivers, understanding what they want for their meals,” she said.

To be able to meet their specific needs, the company has worked to identify their pain points and find ways to fix them, Cholakarn noted.

“Some people have no idea what to eat when their doctor says they need to control their diets, especially low salt intake. Many try to cook for their sick parents but the taste of the food is terrible and seems not to be nutritional. But we have a solution for them – meals that are delicious and nutritious,” she said.

She explained that customers are required to give her team their blood test results. With the results, the team, which includes a registered nutritionist and a highly-trained chef, will go on to create a personalized health plan and meals tailored to them and their medical status.

“We’re so happy when we are told that the meals we’ve created can help people and their loved ones have a better life. We encourage people to eat their food as medicine, not eat medicine as food.” Cholakarn said.

Senior tourism – new opportunities for the tourism market

Companies and operators of products and services related to the greying lifestyle are adjusting their business plans to capitalize on this shift and seize the new opportunities.

Tour Fah Sai Co Ltd., a local tour operator specializing in senior travel, is offering more pleasurable experiences for this market, which is set to become the leading group.

It’s important to understand this group of travelers’ needs and their travel motives to better create products and services that are friendly to them, Chadarat Phuwichit, managing director of Tour Fah Sai Co Ltd noted.

“Senior tourists need more specific products and services. Instead of a bus, we use vans for our tours which makes it easier for them to board the vehicle. We have more breaks, slower walks and offer assistance for different activities,” she said.

The most popular activities amongst the company’s senior tourists are sightseeing and visiting historical and cultural places to explore new experiences, Chadarat noted.

“Seniors are today healthier and live longer than in the past. They don’t think they are seniors. Many of them are young at heart, enjoying adventurous activities. They are not going just to make a merit at the temple,” she said adding that most of the company’s customers are active seniors in their 60s-70s.

Chadarat said the company enjoyed strong growth before the Covid-19 pandemic, with a 100% growth rate in 2018. She is optimistic that the tourism industry including the senior tourism segment will have a strong rebound after being hit hard by the impacts of the pandemic.

“As retirees, seniors have more time to travel.  As the number of elderly increases, they will be responsible for more holiday spending in the future than the younger age group. Now, we see our customers are coming back to the pre-pandemic level. We will focus more on outbound tours as the travel restrictions have lifted. So, the segment’s future will be promising, I believe. We’re so excited to be part of this future travel boom.” she said.

By Thai PBS World