American and European baby boomers can take credit for plenty of social changes – ranging from sixties radicalism to Reaganite capitalism – but they are set for a final hurrah as they hit retirement.
The ‘dramatic population shift’ as those born after World War II retire could have a profound impact in Thailand.
‘The grey baby boomer is rising extraordinarily,’ Antony Picon of Colliers International Thailand told the Bangkok Post. ‘The positive consequences for Thailand could be substantial.’
Thailand has already spotted the potential in older expats. A retirement visa eases residency for foreigners over 50 while a revived investment visa now welcomes those lucky enough to clock off earlier.
Thailand also has a lot to offer grey boomers – including a gentle climate, an incredible service culture and the fourth-lowest consumer price index in Numbeo’s cost-of-living survey of 68 countries.
Thailand’s world-class healthcare – which draws 1.2 medical tourists each year – is another attraction. Golfing at around 200 courses also crops up frequently on expat chatrooms, along with Thailand’s abundant opportunities for romance.
A recent survey by Alliance & Leicester found that 5% of Brits plan to retire in Thailand. In Scandinavia, Mr Picon points out, 3% of the population already visits Thailand every year – and about 1 million Scandinavians will retire this decade.
But, with more than 20 million joining the ranks of 65+ people in Europe, North America and Japan in the next five years, Thailand may further hone its offering to retirees.
‘In many ways, Thailand is already the perfect place for retirement but there is certainly room for developments that incorporate the needs of the elderly into their architecture and design,’ says Cyrille Hareux of Company Vauban real estate.
Mr Picon speculates that foreign retirement home operators will provide specialised packages and financing.
Clustered retirement communities may also spring up in destinations like Pattaya, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and Phuket, offering a neighbourhood of shops, restaurants and community centres where everyone speaks the same language.
That said, baby boomers being what they are, Thailand should brace itself for an invasion of highly energetic oldsters in search of fun rather than special treatment.
‘Senior citizens will demand more facilities in the future as they will be more active because of their free time,’ said Mr Picon.