Retiring from a career can bring on despondency, but more seniors are being given the chance to keep working, albeit in different kinds of jobs.
Thailand will be a full-fledged “ageing society” by 2021, according to the National Economic and Social Development Board. Duangporn Sa-nguanphao, 68, just feels like she’s getting younger.
Standing at the front of the Krispy Kreme branch in the Silom Complex in Bangkok, Duangporn cheerfully welcomes customers inside.
There, she and her colleagues also in their 60s serve pastries and bus the tables, feeling as busy and useful as they ever have and earning much-needed spending money too.
You’re seeing proof of the success of the “Super 60” project Krispy Kreme launched in March to give seniors a chance to get back into the workforce and fend off the creeping boredom of retirement.
“Seniors can be at risk of suffering major depression after they retire,” says Dr Ausanee Mahagitsiri, president of KDN Co, which operates Krispy Kreme in Thailand. “They feel discouraged and lack specific goals in life. The private sector in many countries is rehiring seniors and I think it’s another way to spread happiness in society.
“We’re wide open to hiring any senior who has a service mind. We started with the Silom Complex branch because most of the customers here are Thai. Actually, I wanted to set up a shop run entirely by seniors but ran into some problems. We need to give seniors more time to learn to use a computer and the advanced coffee machine.”
Krispy Kreme currently employs four retirees at Bt80 per hour, nearly double the minimum wage for general part-time staff. They’re trained on the management system and can claim social insurance, and their shifts can be flexible.
“It’s good to see the seniors working with younger people,” says Ausanee. “They can share their experience with each other and sometimes the elders prod the younger ones to work a little harder too!”
Auntie Duangporn was the first to apply for a Super 60 job at Krispy Kreme. She travels by subway between the store and her home in Lat Phrao every Monday to Friday.
She used to be a provincial manager at AIA Insurance Co.
“I quit my job in 2007 and was getting made-to-order meals like shredded pork and chilli paste at home every day. I’ve been working here for three months and seeing the customers smile makes me very happy. I knew that the heart of selling involves knowing the products, so I spent a few days tasting and memorising all 24 kinds of doughnuts and the seasonal sweet dishes.
“My health is better now because I’m walking and moving around all day. I work six hours a day, 9am to 4pm. It’s good working and seeing my friends every day. My new goal is to earn enough for a holiday in Japan.”
Married couple Worawut and Ramon Bavornthaweepanya – he’s 64 and she’s 62 – are no less enthusiastic about their new work arrangement. Auntie Ramon says she was starting to get anxious when her husband showed signs of depression following his retirement last year.
“He was the manager of a printing house for decades,” she says. “Then all of a sudden after he quit his job he was hardly ever speaking, just stayed quiet for months. So his sister and I persuaded him to apply here. Then he got better and became lively again.”
Every workday from noon to 4, Uncle Worawut cleans tables and keeps the doughnut shelves full.
“My family encouraged me to get back to work,” he says. “It keeps me far away from Alzheimer’s and I’m happy my life has some colour again. I’ve been able to use my experience to adjust in several situations. And I’m strong enough to help carry boxes of doughnuts from Siam Paragon to Silom Complex.
“I run at Benchakitti Park every day to keep fit and firm, ready for work. I’m very happy to wake up and have a job to do every day, and the job lets me balance my life.”
Tesco Lotus, in partnership with the Labour Ministry, set up the “60 Young Jaow” (60 Stay Cool) project in April and has since hired almost 900 retirees around the country for part-time work.
“The seniors can choose which station they work in, whether fresh vegetables and fruit, the clothing department, the bakery or customer service,” says Aurakanda Attavipach, the retail chain’s “people director”.
“The shifts are flexible, running from four to six hours. The seniors are paid Bt50 per hour and can claim welfare including free annual health check-ups, discount coupons and medical treatment.
“Money isn’t the issue,” Aurakanda says of the pay rate. “It’s about living a worthwhile life. We welcome all seniors who love to learn new things and interact with other people, meaning our customers.
“We aim to hire 5,000 seniors over the next three years. We host fun activities to strengthen staff relationships. People of all ages can work together. We have students for whom we pay 10 per cent of their school tuition and we have blind people working in customer service.”
Sathapana Hongsakul, 67, had his own company selling audio-visual equipment before retiring three years ago. Now he works at Tesco Lotus Sukhaphiban 1, just 15 minutes from home, arranging the shelves in the fresh market.
“I applied because I didn’t want to waste my time at home,” Uncle Sathapana says. “I work Monday to Saturday from 9am to 1pm. I’m happy to be back on the job and learning from younger colleagues. We all respect each other.”
Over at the customer service counter, using his computer skills to issue tax invoices, Prachim Phutthikornpanya, 62, worked at a law firm until 2013.
“I have fun learning about life,” he says of his new five-day-a-week job. “We deal with a lot of people, so I teach my younger co-workers how to control their feelings. We should use our brains, not our emotions.
“I wake up early in the morning and do my household chores before driving to Lotus for my 2-to-6 shift. The salary isn’t much, but I’m happy to gain new experience.”
Manthana Phoonla-aor, 68, taps the skills she learned at Osotspa for her new tasks in the clothing department at Lotus.
“It feels good to earn Bt10,000 a month. I work Monday to Saturday from 1 to 5pm. Lotus is close to my house, so it’s very convenient for me,” Auntie Manthana smiles.
“I love fashion. Working here is like exercising. It’s great that they hire retired seniors, because other companies don’t welcome us.
We don’t have children, so we need the money just for living.”
Other firms playing leading roles in supporting retirees are HomePro, Thai Toshiba, Phungnoi Bakery, Thai VP Corp and the Thairung Group.