Government scheme helps elderly Thais become social media influencers

Photo of Khun Yai Hong Thong via her Facebook page คุณยายหงส์ทอง

More elderly Thais are using social media than ever before, but very few consider themselves ‘content creators.’ Government agency Thai Media Fund has started a digital training scheme to help Thailand’s aging population use the internet more effectively and generate their content, so they can use social media to turn their passions into profit.

Almost 78% of Thailand’s 70 million population is online and Thailand has the 8th highest number of Facebook users in the world. The World Bank predicts that by 2040, 17 million Thais – more than a quarter of the population – will be over 65 years of age. Elderly people love using social media to stay connected just as much as young people, but need more training as they as not as tech-savvy as the youth, according to Chief Executive of Thai Media Fund Dr. Dhanakorn Srisooksai…

“We are entering the digital era with elderly people, more and more elderly are using media right now, but with limited skills.”

The training scheme is aimed at elderly Thais who have special skills to teach to the younger generation. For example, elderly farmers might have valuable knowledge about how to grow food, but as long as the knowledge is not online, it is largely inaccessible to young people. The project takes on 50 students at a time and teaches technical skills such as how to take, edit and upload videos and how to build an online presence.

One ex-head teacher, 62 year old Somsak, has a passion for environmental conservation. After taking part in the Thai Media Fund’s scheme, he now films a clip in his garden every morning, spends 30 minutes editing the video, and posts it on social media, sometimes hitting over 8000 views. Somsak advises old people to “give it a go” because the elderly have knowledge that is valuable to society.

Thailand already has some famous elderly influencers, who have risen to fame with the technical help of younger family members. One famous woman is “Khun Yai Hong Thong” – or “Grandma Hong Thong” – a well-dressed OAP with a passion for whiskey. Grandma Hong Thong’s granddaughter films entertaining clips about her grandma’s daily life and post them online. Grandma Hong Thong has become an online star, gaining over 120,000 likes on her Facebook page.

Thai Media Fund’s scheme will help people like Grandma Hong Thong to create content independently and not have to rely on the help of young people to actualise their online potential.

Students of the training scheme will also learn how to stay safe online. Elderly people are more vulnerable to falling for scams and fake information, which there is a lot online, according to Dhanakorn.

So far, elderly people who have taken part in the scheme have gone on to create their own social media channels about fitness, conservation, teaching English, and caring for autistic children.

SOURCE: Guardian

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.