The contemporary art exhibition project “Blowing up the Tale of Ageing Society” addresses the role of an “ageing society” in terms of its meaning and our understanding, using creative art media to take the situation of Thailand’s elderly to the public, with consideration given to changing social contexts. Looking back to the year 1963 as a starting point for the “million-birth generation,” we find that Thailand had birth rates as high as a million between 1963 and 1983, a kind of population tsunami, with its members now moving into their senior years. In 2023 that million-birth generation turns 60, so this is considered the start of the BACC exhibition “The Elderly of Thailand.”
According to statistics compiled by the Department of Provincial Administration on 31 December 2022, the national population of 66,090,47 includes 12,519,926 aged persons. 7,007,703 of which are women and 5,512,223 men, accounting for 18.94 percent of the total population.
This data does not include elderly people who were not counted in the census, which could raise the proportion to as high as 20%. Bangkok has a rate of 21.48 percent, Chiang Mai has a rate of 21.14 percent, and Nonthaburi has a rate of 20.14 percent. These figures suggest that Thailand is on the verge of becoming a "super-aged" society.
In current social dimensions of Thai society, among all the various contemporary crises physically affecting quality of life – environment, economy, infectious disease, politics, artificial intelligence – the crisis of an ageing society looms as large as any. Thailand entered the ranks of a full-blown ageing society in 2022, when the worldwide population of elderly reached a billion, and the trend is getting more severe all the time, suggesting that this group might well be defined as “old, isolated, and marginalised.” According to World Population Prospects 2022, by 2050, the global population over 65 will increase from 10% to as much as 16%, and if calculated from the age of 60, it will be higher than 20%. People under the age of five, as well as those under the age of twelve, constitute a proportion that is two times that of the elderly. The report encourages countries with ageing populations to support social changes, making adjustments in the public sector to accommodate this trend in areas such as sustainability of social security, pension benefits, universal health care, and systems for long-term care.
In what ways is Thai society, both in the public and private sectors, prepared to make such changes? How can different generations in society be balanced? Or how can we instill value and acceptance among different age groups? Reduce disparities? Workplace issues for the elderly? Long-term social services for the elderly? There are also numerous other related issues, such as skill training. What attitudes are required to address these issues? In the last ten years, issues concerning the elderly in Thailand have been widely discussed in the public media, the public sector, and at the community level, with regard to both dimensions of opportunity and dealing with the Thai aged community. References to “selfish old biddie” and “selfish old fart” in 2014 reflected differences in attitude between age groups in a clash of generations. The Department of Older Persons was established in 2015, and “Now Ageing/Stepping into Elderly Society, Good Ideas, Opportunities Come,” a knowledge series by the Office of Knowledge Management and Development (OKMD) and “Welfare for the Elderly” (State welfare cardholder rights for disabled, elderly, and bedridden) came in 2018; the “Peaceful Death” group and the research institute and community development group “Jang Waan Kha” from The Mirror Foundation joined the work in 2020. The 2021 publication in the Royal Gazette of the National Reform Plan (Revised Version) announced raising retirement age for government employees in various positions – except for administrators and positions requiring physical fitness in administering duties – from 60 to 63 years of age beginning with fiscal year 2022, and extending it to 65 beginning with fiscal year 2032. Even more recent additions to this cavalcade are Farsighted Museum: Sighting forward to Ageing Society (2021), the Senior Club’s Day event in 2022, and the list goes on.
Entering an ageing society doesn’t mean merely a superficial change in the proportional population of a society, but additionally produces new changes in thought, attitudes, values, customs, the economy, and lifestyles in all different age groups. Understanding is created in order to bridge gaps, reduce generational differences, and learn the needs of the elderly. It should result in a suitable design for society and balance among its constituencies (universal design, design for all) that provides economic opportunities for producers through organisations promoting intergenerational knowledge and works for equality among age groups while building values and acceptance of our common humanity. It should also raise awareness of change that can be brought into a future where all live together in friendship.
The exhibition “Blowing Up the Tale of Ageing Society” brings together issues related to the role of the elderly in society in a four-dimensional framework: 1) Health and wellness; 2) Economy and innovation; 3) An equitable society; and 4) Physical environment and accessibility. It involves art works and creative media to stimulate thought and apply it to situations by interpreting multidimensional social meanings. Participating creators include Phra Paisal Visalo, Kamonlak Sukchai, Karakot Arromdee, Jakrawal Nilthamrong, Chumpon Utayophat, Chart Korbjitti, Dansoung Sungvornveshapan, Thanit Jitnukul, Nopawan Sirivejkul, Phongsathorn Kanthawong, Sutin Tantipas, Supannikar Tiranaparin, and works selected by four curators: Chainarong Ariyaprasert, Veeraya Iam-cham, Onanong Glinsiri, and Suebsang Sangwachirapiban.
This exhibition is based on contemporary art design and creative media in the context of an ageing society. It offers integrated activities in response to different ways of looking at things, e.g., recognition, understanding, and coexistence of all people and groups, resting on a foundation of an ageing society in the context of Thailand. It explores attitudes toward the elderly, the importance and value of old people’s experience, the handing down of experience, skills, wisdom, histories and ways of life, old people’s labor, time, and physical conditions. Its purpose is to build understanding of the needs of the elderly, with relevant issues including 1) Art that gives meaning and creates understanding of differing periods of ageing; 2) Art that explores new age-appropriate and dignified roles for the elderly; 3) Art that points out the physical restrictions of old people; 4) A design for all people which helps facilitate everyone’s ability to make use of the exhibition hall. The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre uses contemporary art media to tell stories that connect people of all ages and communicate about changes in society, culture, and the economy. These are intended to stimulate and promote positive viewpoints, improving processes of thinking and participation, appreciating the value in oneself and others, the truths of life, and preparation for old age. The art works presented address these matters so that viewers may think about the meaning of a society that includes everyone at every level and creates a balance for society in the future.
information provided by event organizer