Tue, Apr 17, 2018 - Page 9 News List

In aging Thailand, developers race to satisfy locals and expats

With the fastest-aging population in Southeast Asia, large-scale investment is going into Thai care facilities to attract Thais and surging numbers of foreign retirees

By Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat  /  Reuters, BANGKOK

At 79, Thai businessman Boon Vasin’s latest US$500 million venture is a bet on a market that he knows well — looking after Thailand’s rapidly growing population of older people.

Not only is Thailand aging faster than its neighbors, but it is also becoming an increasingly popular retirement option for foreigners attracted by its agreeable climate, low living and health costs and culture of service.

“We will look after them from their waking hours until they go to sleep,” said Boon, chairman of the Thonburi Healthcare Group. “This group has big spending capacity.”

His Jin Well-being County is a “medical city” for Thai and foreign retirees being built across more than 2 hectares on the outskirts of Bangkok.

The first of nearly 500 housing units being sold in an initial phase are being marketed for about US$130,000, plus additional fees of 7,000 to 8,000 baht (US$224 to US$256) a month for meals and services ranging from fitness sessions to excursions.

Boon predicts that care services would yield recurring profits of up to 240 million baht each year from the project, plus unit sales and medical services.

Together with China, Thailand is aging much faster than its regional neighbors. By 2040, it is expected to have the highest share of elderly people of any developing country in East Asia, according to the World Bank.

Thailand has 7.5 million people aged 65 and older, a figure projected to swell to 17 million by 2040 — more than a quarter of the expected population.

That is partly due to improving medical care extending life expectancies, but also a fall in birth rates from an average of more than six children per woman in 1960 to 1.5 in 2015.

In the past, generations of the same Thai family lived under the same roof and elderly people were cared for by their offspring.

However, the changing population balance, as well as a shift from the countryside to towns, means that that is increasingly impractical.

Real-estate developers are already tapping the market.

A residential project worth US$160 million by developer Magnolia Quality Development Corp, which is scheduled to open in 2022, is to include a wellness center offering elderly care services with specialists in areas such as dementia, chief executive Visit Malaisirirat said.

All the homes in SC Asset Corp’s US$350 million luxury brand are equipped with designs aimed at elderly people, marketing head Nattagit Sirirat said.

This includes shock-absorbent floors and wheelchair access.

“We worked with Siam Cement, which designed a shock-absorbing compound to use in flooring,” he said.

The company was “closely studying retirement homes and communities” and was considering a partnership with a local private hospital operator to build a retirement community, he added, while declining to divulge predicted returns.

For his care home, Boon is focusing on people with an income of more than 100,000 baht a month — and not just Thais. The aim is to sell at least 20 percent of the project to foreigners, who are targeted along with locals in marketing materials.

“We have Chinese and Japanese buyers who are interested,” he said.

Boon has partnered with a Chinese agent, Shanghai Losen Sale, to sell 90 units worth 671 million baht to Chinese customers.

Thailand did not make the top 10 list of International Living’s 2018 index for the best places to retire for US expatriates. Costa Rica was at No. 1 and neighboring Malaysia at No. 5.

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