Don’t let old age get you down

Sak, a self-taught and veteran woodworker of Doi Saket, just turned 60 last year. He is now considered a senior citizen and entitled for elderly allowance. What does this mean to him and the community and society he lives in? And what can we at Studio 88 do to help?

Workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai
Workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai

Thailand will become a full-fledged ageing society in 2021 when the number of its senior citizens is expected to reach 13.1 million or 20 per cent of the total population, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) reported recently. This means one out of five people will be an elderly citizen. While their numbers increase, many in the older generations have low or negligible savings and assets to care for themselves.

Sak working at Studio 88 Artist Residency Chiang Mai
Sak working at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai

Sak doesn’t let his age worry him. Based on his expertise and experience, he approached the local Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education (NFE) and proposed an idea to organise capacity building and skills training on woodworking workshop for local (senior) people. The workshop, held in early 2019, aimed to equip people with new skills and enable people to generate extra income from the skills that they learnt. Fifteen community members with different level of skills attended the workshop.

Workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai
Workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai

The participants learnt technical skills, from basic shape making with handmade tools to wood turning with machines. They made simple kitchen utensils like spoons, spatulas, shelves and home décor, like key chain hangers and stair railings. The items were simple and straightforward. Many of them hoped they might be able to use these skills to gain extra income, while others had plans to make items for family members.

Home décor made at the workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai
Home décor made at the workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai

The project might have been small, but it demonstrates how we could create a better livelihood within local communities – it’s never too late to learn a new skill. Sak is already thinking about other ways he could share his skills in meaningful ways. In the same vein, I invite artists and designers and anyone at Studio 88 to collaborate with local community to learn local wisdom as well as share their own knowledge. This is one way in which Studio 88 would like to make positive change, on both small and large scales.

 

Sasiwimon Wongjarin (Aom)