The Duang Prateep Foundation is most closely identified with work to support children's education. The DPF, however, is a community organization for all the people of Khlong Toei Slum. As part of the Foundation's commitment to help slum dwellers of all ages, the Foundation has staff available to give advice and assistance to elderly and disabled slum dwellers whenever it is required.
The DPF programme for the elderly helps senior citizens in their dealings with the bureaucracy, with medical personnel or with any other problems which may occur. Thailand has very little government welfare for the aged, which means that in cases of hardship the Foundation will endeavour to provide financial assistance for medical expenses or any other essential costs.
The Foundation also has a social club for senior citizens from the slums. The club meets every Wednesday for lunch, exercises, handicrafts and other social activities, as well as massages and haircuts provided by volunteers. The senior citizens group also go on occasional outings to the coast or places of interest.
The Thai New Year on April the 13th is also the national day for the elderly. It is a time of paying respect to older relatives, by pouring lustral water on their hands. The Foundation celebrates the occasion on a working day just before the New Year. Some 800 senior citizens dine and are entertained at the Foundation. It is a small symbol of the respect we show to our elders.
The Foundation has the cooperation of local hospitals, that perform cataract operations at specially discounted prices to senior citizens referred to them by the Duang Prateep Foundation. The Foundation has been able to sponsor many cataract operations and also provide glasses to other senior citizens.
The role of the Foundation in helping senior citizens is becoming more important than ever. The tradition of the extended family living together under one roof is breaking down under modern lifestyles. Under modern working conditions, with people facing long journeys to their work place and long hours of work, offspring often have less time to care for ageing parents.
The elderly in remote areas are the most likely to be abandoned as youngsters desert their home villages and move to the towns in search of work. In the towns the trend towards a nuclear family is also continuing.
The extended family is still the best way to reduce the social problems that the elderly face. A loving home environment where the elderly can help the family and be assisted in return is preferable in every respect to being abandoned to a life alone. At a time, however, when children are increasingly neglecting the care of their parents the Foundation must work harder to fill the void that has been left.