Case Studies

Chula ARi, an innovation that moves society

A model of multidisciplinary-approach project to tackle Thailand’s ageing society

With the proportion of senior citizens rapidly growing, Thailand is set to become a full-fledged ageing society in 2021. According to the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council, the population aged over 60 will account for more than 20%.

Coupling with the ageing society, advanced technology has prolonged human lifespan while birthrate has continuously dropped, due to national family planning policy in the past few decades.

The juxtaposing trends not only see more and more elderly being abandoned and lonely, but also have increased the state’s financial burden. The situation, expected to emerge in the next three decades, will become a major challenge for the country that needs to be fixed before it’s too late.

As a leading educational institution, Chulalongkorn University has taken social issues into account. The university has tried to find solutions to help solve the problems and come up with “Chulalongkorn University Platform for Ageing Research Innovation”, or Chula ARi.

Established in 2018, Chula ARi is a multidisciplinary-approach project, designed to improve the quality of life of the elderly. The project research was conducted in four large-scale neighborhoods of Bangkok, namely Wang Thong Lang, Sam Praeng (Praeng Phuthon, Praeng Nara and Praeng Sappasat), Phasi Charoen, and Din Daeng Housing Estate, in which 1,361 senior citizens were living.

To find ways to improve the quality of life for the elderly, Chula ARi has worked with different departments in the university to conduct studies in five areas.

First, Economy and Public Participation focuses on saving plans, debt management, and post-retirement work. Second, Population and Society sets up archival data which will later be used to improve the senior citizens’ quality of life.

Third, Healthcare will create a system that promotes physical and mental health for the elderly as well as introduces a preventive home visit program. Most importantly, the elderly will be treated with respect and dignity. Fourth, Physical Environment will improve the environment and public services for the elderly in their homes, communities, and public space.

Fifth, Technology and Innovation will be used as a preventive tool to improve the elderly’s well-being. Computer games will be used to prevent dementia, rehab robots to increase muscle mass and strength, and robots to take care of stroke or bed-ridden patients.

Chula ARi Ninja robots will also be introduced for the telemedicine service.

Developed by the CU Innovation Hub, Chula ARi Ninja robots have been given to the Department of Older Persons, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. The robot will be used as a tool for telemedicine to take care of bed-ridden patients or those living in remote areas. The robot, that won a CSR award from the department, has already been used at the ministry’s elderly center in Pathum Thani.

Apart from internal cooperation, the Chula ARi project also collaborates with YoungHappy – a social enterprise that aims to improve the quality of life of senior citizens through an online platform – to organize workshops for the seniors to learn new skills. Chula ARi also works with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to establish pilot projects in communities across the city.

Chula ARi and the College of Population Studies co-hosted “Measuring Population Ageing: Bridging Research and Policy” in 2019. Participating organizations were the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) Austria, and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The meeting was to find solutions to support and enhance national policies.

In its first three-year phase currently being implemented, the project is conducting a policy research in parallel with an action research in four pilot communities. Chula ARi’s success is evidently contributing a small part to helping the country’s transition to the ageing society. Such a collaboration, between public and private organizations as well as educational institutions, has helped raise public awareness and build a protective shield for the working-age population and the elderly.

Chula ARi has thus proved itself to be a social innovation using a multidisciplinary approach that strives to achieve the goal of building a network to better the quality of life of the senior citizens.

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