Indian seniors face loneliness in their sunset years. And many companies have kicked in to provide various kinds of options for India's elderly.
India is staring at a huge demographic problem.
A young nation is grappling with an increasing number of people entering their sunset years.
According to census data, the number of people above the age of 60 is expected to grow to 173 million by 2025.
Senior citizens don’t have it too easy in this country, with large numbers being forced to live alone, as their children set up nuclear families with two or more working individuals. Census data states that almost 15 million elderly Indians live all alone.
Loneliness leads to depression and other mental health issues, impacting their physical health severely.
Says Nidhi Chawla, co-founder, Silver Talkies: “Loneliness and a sense of isolation can lead to mental health problems like depression. Worryingly, India has a higher rate of depressive disorders among the elderly at 21.9 per cent, compared to the global numbers ranging from 5 to 16 per cent.”
Given this scenario, companies such as ivhSeniorCare, Silver Talkies and Samarth have come up with elder care solutions that look after various needs of seniors whose families live away from them.
Silver Talkies help seniors stay socially engaged and mentally stimulated. They run clubs and organise events for seniors to help them find like-minded peers. Working on similar lines, Samarth and ivhSeniorCare provide support to seniors and look into the physical, emotional, mental and social well-being of elders living alone.
Solutions for the elderly
The companies in this space offer professional services through care managers, some of whom have a defence background.
Says Swadeep Srivastava, chief belief officer, ivhSeniorCare: “By engaging ex-defence personnel as care managers, a dual purpose is served, of giving a sense of security and reliability to the elders and providing employment to retired jawans.”
Some of the services offered by them are 24-hour emergency care, healthcare support, home maintenance and security, social engagement, accompanied travel and voluntary/part-time work.
Medical concierge: Healthcare solutions include basic services such as provision of an attendant and physiotherapy at home, and advanced services such as intensive care units and chemotherapy set-ups at home. In the case of hospitalisation, to and fro transportation, support with admission, billing, discharge and rehabilitation back at home, along with doctor follow-ups are taken care of by these companies. Additional support such as purchasing and keeping a tab on medicines and medical equipment are also offered.
Social concierge: To keep seniors socially active, these companies offer services in the domain of community engagement, such as trips to religious places, movie screenings, and visits to local or outstation places of interest. Simple services like driving the elderly to their relatives’ places or helping them attend a family function are also offered.
Adds Srivastava: “By keeping them socially active, we try to keep loneliness and mental health issues at bay.” Services are not limited to those mentioned above.
Samarth has its own mobile app and quarterly magazines, and also organises events throughout the year.
Says Gaurav Agarwal, chief operating officer at Samarth: “It helps them interact and engage with each other, receive information and expert advice on topics of health, wellness, home-care, and money matters. People also find post-retirement jobs and voluntary opportunities. They also receive training and awareness on relevant areas such as computers, internet, and digital transactions.”
Cost of facilities
Samarth's care programme starts at Rs 2,500 per month, and includes home audits, document organisation, care counsellors, operations support, and home maintenance. The annual membership fee of Silver Talkies club ranges from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500, and the services are open to all above the age of 55.
The basic care package of ivhSeniorCare for one elderly person costs around Rs 1,800 for a month and Rs 11,400 a year. This package includes one visit a month by the care manager (extra visits are chargeable), coordination of home health, social assistance and hospital services and other general assistance for seniors. Every package has different inclusions and exclusions.
Apart from regular packages, there are also customised packages that are designed to cater to the specific requirements of an elderly person.
Should you opt for assisted living?
As an alternative option, many senior citizens also look at assisted living facilities. In this model, retirees move into a society created especially for senior citizens who are at least 55 years old. All facilities such as cooking, cleaning, medical facilities or nursing help, are provided by the society.
Apart from that, entertainment facilities like a theatre, club, and library are also provided. However, these homes are usually costlier than regular houses. The residential units for seniors cost around Rs 500-700 per sq ft more than normal residential houses in the same area. Add to that the annual maintenance charge of Rs 20,000 to Rs 70,000.
Elders are most happy living in familiar surroundings, in the house that they have built, or in the neighbourhood where they have lived for years.
Says Agarwal of Samarth, “One of the biggest issues in an old age home is about being surrounded by other similarly aged people. This is known to have a severe and harmful psychological effect.”
He further adds: “Financially, this does not work out to be a prudent long-term solution, as the market for such housing is not very liquid.”