How Tech Start-ups For Senior Citizens Are Changing The World Of The Elderly In India

by | Mar 6, 2024

Quite a few have comprehended the void in the senior care area, especially knowing that nearly 25 percent of the elderly population stays in India

When a 30+ Nehul Malhotra saw his parents struggle with their phones to book an Uber and crave for his time, this IIM graduate chucked a cosy job to start a service-oriented application for the elderly.

Salil Datar, 50+ ex-banker, saw his mother duped for a huge amount and realised there is nothing in the space for 75plus that caters to their digital curiosity or illiteracy.

Asheesh Gupta, another 50+ who is a member of board of Atal Incubation Center (AIC) of JK Laxmipat University (JKLU), Jaipur, saw the need of sensitising the youth about elders in the community when he realised that they have the energy, but no knowledge.

Nehul, Asheesh, and Salil are not the only players in this space. Quite a few have comprehended the void in the senior care area, especially knowing that nearly 25 percent of the elderly population stays in India.

The government of India, too, has understood the need of the hour and introduced programs like SAGE — Senior Age Growth Economy —wherein the matrix has been studied and funds have been kept aside to assist senior care. Government has also kept aside an incentive in its Startup Seed Fund for start-ups that promote elderly care. Elder care at home, assisted living at senior living communities are few of the other steps taken for the betterment of senior citizens in India.

 “My parents were my inspiration behind my start-up — Genwise. And it is called GenWise because I believe that my elders are a wise lot. Therefore, like GenX, GenZ, GenWise,” says Nehul. Target age group of GenWise is 50 to 75. What started as an online club for elders, provides essential services like Risk Free Passbook and Saathi for the senior citizens. “Risk Free Passbook is a service on the app that enables the users to check the balance in the account attached. This is certified by RBI and does not allow any transactions,” elucidates Nehul. “Most seniors are scared to do money transactions on a digital platform.”

Salil Datar agrees. “I was in banking till 2021. I have seen the entire spectrum from rural banking to digital and neo banking. Elders are afraid of typing that ‘one extra zero’, which might change the whole thing… or that someone might hack and misuse the password, etc. “Unfortunately, not many have comprehended how essential it is to cater to this age group.”

However, there has been a significant rise in the apps and services being offered online and offline for senior citizens according to Asheesh. He feels that people have now seen the potential and are looking at the elderly population as a promising market. “At AIC, we have incubated quite a few start-ups that have either launched apps for the senior citizens or products that cater to the requirements of that age group.” His organisation, Samarth, serves the senior citizens on two levels — tech and touch. “Touch is the physical help that one can give,” he explains. “Our volunteers, in 97 cities, are like sons and daughters of the seniors we care for. We offer comprehensive care at their homes and help them navigate technology to make their lives easier.”

Asheesh has launched a program along with AIC, called LEAP —Longevity Economy Accelerator Program. “This is a preparatory program that’s conducted for JKLU students and is also open program for others. It is to educate youth about opportunities available in the space of senior care and sensitising them about the same.”

Salil’s Simpli5 is more of a technology led service. The app helps caregivers keep a tab on their wards. “Not just that, it also helps the digitally challenged navigate varied apps and services with ease,” Salil explains. Simpli5 creates a screen for the smartphone of the user that enables the caregiver decide what apps and services are available to senior citizen. The senior is not able to login or download anything that’s not approved by the caregiver which, probably or effectively, can create trouble. “This gives mental peace to the senior citizen and the caregiver. Also, for all other transactions, the app has three-fold verification where the user is asked if the figure or word typed is correct.”

Other important features of the Simpli5 are fall alert, inactivity alert and mood alert. These alerts makes the caregiver aware of all emergencies even when not around.

While there are apps and products being launched, how many seniors actually use them? Because, Salil says, the seniors are digital migrants while the GenZ and millennials are digital natives. “It is important to observe how they use my app. I have created a prototype. But their adaptability is imperative because it is not intuitive for them,” says Salil.

Asheesh agrees. “For them, trust is important and they don’t trust technology so easily.”

Asheesh also says that it cannot be all about technology for the seniors. Physical presence and emotional support is equally important. Nehul concurs. “Loneliness is one of cardinal factors at that age. Our Saathi service caters to that. The members can call our volunteers and talk to them on any subject, time no bar.”

It is interesting to see that men resonate with help apps and services for senior citizens much later than women. Nehul also observes that it is the women from tier two cities that resort to taking help earlier than the ones in metros or tier one cities. “It is, probably, due to the mindset which develops thanks to the exposure one gets till the age of 50. Tier two women have lesser exposure and therefore the need for support sets in early,” mentions Nehul.

This said, it is commendable to note that government of India and many others have recognised the importance of assisting senior citizens of India. The once white space is now vibrant with youngsters giving their time, money and ideas to elderly care.

Source: Free Press Journal, Sunday 3rd March, 2024

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