What Makes Senior Care A Difficult Space To Operate In India?

With little to no recourse for someone facing elder abuse, the complex manners of an Indian family subdomain often succeeds in keeping the victims quiet in lieu of ‘family respect’

Age is a club that no one wants to be a part of. It often marks a place of discrimination and ignorance. However, as people live healthier lives, they are also living longer. Now it is becoming commonplace for people to live into their 80s and 90s, with some long lifers even reaching a century. It means that many people will have decades after retirement to continue to live and prosper.

Unfortunately, when we think of the senior industry and the silver economy, we often place people of this age bracket together into one homogeneous group. It is not representative of today’s reality. Add to it the problem of elder abuse, that grows in dark corners of households and most often is little recognised or addressed. Interestingly, elder abuse is not just a developing economy’s issue, it is a global health issue as described by the United Nations.

With little to no recourse for someone facing elder abuse, the complex manners of an Indian family subdomain often succeeds in keeping the victims quiet in lieu of ‘family respect’. The Government of India is setting a new course in improving attention to the older population through reformative policy advances such as the amendment to Senior Citizen Welfare Act in 2017 and expanding the scope of Maintenance Tribunals for a monthly allowance from a child or relatives.

Older adults have various diverse health circumstances, standards of education, and life experiences that may or may not correlate with their actual age.

Catalysing & Reforming Senior Care in India, a study by FICCI breaks this group into three categories that make it a bit easier to analyze and are not age-specific:

● Young Old - are working to prevent chronic illnesses, require minimum to no additional medical support, and maintain optimum levels of activity and community participation.

● Old - are working to reverse physical, mental, and immune decline. They may require some support with household activities and preserving mobility or cognitive functions and have adjusted their house to help reduce falls and attend to other limited capacities.

● Oldest-Old - are managing advanced chronic or acute illnesses and require long-term care to support mobility and cognitive functions. They require a secure care environment and ongoing caregiver support.

It is often difficult to operate in senior care in India, because care tries to address all these categories instead of being able to focus on a single goal effectively. Those entering the senior care space need to look at which category of ‘old’ they are looking to attend and really focus on meeting those needs.

According to a recent survey by the Agewell Foundation with 5,000 older persons, 81.5 percent in the age of 60-75 category were found to be in search of gainful work. Employment exchanges, platforms elevating their skills through virtual tools to stay up to date on technology and the latest in job skills, health and wellness, and fitness and such models could work well to address this problem today.

The Indian government has taken some positive steps to promote private participation in eldercare with programs such as Senior care Ageing Growth Engine (SAGE), the National Helpline for Senior Citizens (ElderLine- 14567) and Senior Able Citizens for Re-employment in Dignity (SACRED).

Virtual platforms cannot completely meet the needs of those who need advanced geriatric care and home assistance. Organisations looking to operate in the senior care space need to clearly define their target audience and build products and services accordingly. Insurtech, geriatric care, home assistance services such as 24x7 caregivers, telemedicine and private assisted living players can bridge the gaps in this specific area.

In addition to defining their target audience, companies in the senior care space also need to be part of advocacy for better regulations, taxes, and guidelines to help manage care for the billions of Indians who will be entering the 50+ category. There is still a lot of ageism and this space, while growing continuously, is still overlooked by many industries including retail, ecommerce and financial services while the numbers indicate a sizable mass who have interest based income.

Ageing is a natural order and we need to ensure that resources are available to support them, to provide them with the same quality of life and dignity. Without clearer rules and regulations many older Indians will slip through the cracks, but we must hope and strive for a better place where older adults are free from economic and mental abuse.

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