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Why retirement real estate is now one of Thailand’s fastest-growing property segments

The luxury senior housing industry is dawning on the kingdom as more and more Thais retire in independence

Thailand is greying fast. The kingdom holds the highest share of elderly people of any developing nation in East Asia and Pacific, the World Bank reported. As it stands, 11 percent of the Thai populace, representing 7.5 million people, are aged at least 65 years. The figure in 1995 was 5 percent; by 2040, it will have increased to as much a fourth of the populace or 17 million people.

In any other market, the vintage of a populace would be a bonanza to property developers. But this is Thailand, land of multigenerational households; to capitalise on the astronomical growth of its geriatric demographic, one has to fight against a tide of ingrained mores.

As with many Asian countries, the notion of children booking their parents in retirement communities and nursing care homes was once unthinkable in the kingdom. If anything, empty nesters are loathe to leave their homes, many bequethed to them across multiple generations. Upwardly mobile children will simply hire private nurses and nursing aides as their caretaking proxies.

“Some people are getting around this by living in a condominium where they own units side by side,” said Kipsan Beck, managing director of the supertall MahaNakhon mixed-use project in Bangkok, at the first PropertyGuru Thailand Real Estate Summit. “But imagine that elderly people have some special needs. They need medical services on-call; they need slightly different furnishings from those for a 20- or 30-year old.”

Granted, the luxury senior housing market in the country remains “relatively small,” Jones Lang LaSalle reported in July. Slowly but surely, however, wealthy baby boomers are growing comfortable with the idea of active ageing, independent of family members.

“Senior living in Thailand is a key growth sector that we will see over the next 10 years,” said Andrew Gulbrandson, head of research and consulting at Jones Lang LaSalle Thailand.

Several consortia and joint ventures have made a headstart on such a captive market. In Chon Buri, the Sunplay Bangsaray project invites active retirees to live out their golden years in highly amenitised pool villas and condominiums alongside a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse. Along the beaches of Kamala in Phuket will rise MontAzure, a 454-rai mixed-use development whose central components include Kamala Senior Living, an upscale retirement community, as well as Thailand’s first Café del Mar.

Kamala Senior Living is  geared toward leisure-oriented, high-net-worth property seekers of a certain age. “These are active retirees who would like to enjoy their lives,” said Jonathan Umali, director of project and asset management at Hong Kong’s ARCH Capital Management, a lead investor in MontAzure. “There are activities organised for residents, so that they have something to do every day. It’s like being in a cruise ship.”

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