03/29/2016, 13.47
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Thai Church in defense of elderly: We need to rediscover our grandparents

by Weena Kowitwanij

The country has the lowest birth rate in South-East Asia. By 2021, those over 60 will be 20% of the population. Culture of social integration of the elderly is lacking. Director of the Commission for the Pastoral Care of the Elderly: "It is not enough to support them with welfare, we must build a positive mindset towards our grandparents, who are fountains of wisdom".

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - By 2021 Thailand will be a country of "old people", in which 20% of the population will be over 60 years. This is the projection made by the Thai National Office for the Economy and Social Development, which warns of the risks that a society not used to taking care of the elderly will have to face in the coming years.

In addition, today's adults are not able to save to secure an adequate pension. That is why Bangkok has decided to sensitize the population by introducing the "National Savings Day" dedicated to the elderly, which will be celebrated next April 15 in conjunction with the Thai New Year (Songkran festival).

The Catholic Church is in the forefront of improving the consideration of the elderly, who are seen more often as a useless burden on society. According to Fr. Rocco Pairat Sriprasert, director of the Commission for the pastoral care of the elderly, "Thai society must change its attitude towards senior citizens, which is the section of the population to which it pays less attention. It is not enough to support older people with basic social welfare. It is more important is to build a positive mindset towards pensioners, and it is the hardest thing to do and it takes longer".

In Thailand the rate of over 60s has doubled in just 15 years. Fr. Sriprasert continues "the elderly are not only the recipient [of goods] but also givers. We should consider them as people who have a value, and think about the fact that one day we will be like them. In the Christian vision everyone has a role according to their age. The elderly are still able to do good for society: we should honor them and respect them for all the experience they have accumulated through their lives”.

To boost awareness and consideration of old age, "the Church is preparing several initiatives, for what it considers a real emergency." On the occasion of April 15, says Fr. Sriprasert, "a special Mass was scheduled for retirees and their relatives. After Mass, young people will gift a garland of jasmine to their grandparents, as a sign of respect they have towards them, asking for their elders’ blessing. This is an integration of the religious ritual with Thai culture, to make people understand that old age is a source of wisdom and blessing of God”. Thailand has the lowest birth rate in South-East Asia, with only 12 births per 1,000 inhabitants.

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