2020 Report

6. Emergence of Market-based Solutions

The number of older adults in India (people over the age of 60 years and otherwise referred as ‘senior citizens’) stood at 104 million as of 2016, accounting for 8.6% of the total population. Almost 29% of this population, i.e., 31 million persons, reside in urban centers while the rest live in rural India.

Over the next two decades, the population changes among older adults will be affected by demographic changes among the general population.

  • Overall population of the country – increase of 22% between 1991 to 2011
  • Population growth – decline from 2.1% in 1990 to 1% in 2018
  • Fertility rates in urban India – fall is steep in urban areas and lower than replacement levels in some states (as per a 2016 study by the Government’s ageing division)

Studies point out that that the population of older adults is expected to rise to 350 million by 2050. This is a population that will require better care, support and services thus presenting an opportunity for substantial investments and innovation over the next decade. It is expected that policymakers at the central and in states will make this a focus area, thus bringing much needed governmental support for the sector. Early efforts of this are already being seen in policies by states like Kerala and TN that have higher proportion of older adults than the national average. All of this is expected to open up opportunities for the private sector to cater to this emergent demographic.

One can also notice differences in work and post-work scenarios among urban and rural centers. For example, 46% of elderly men and 11% of elderly women above the age of 60 years in urban centers are working while the numbers in rural areas are 66% for elderly men and about 28% for elderly women. While some of this may have to do with the nature of work (agrarian versus industrial/services), benefits of formal employment in urban centers (pension, savings, etc.) and better socio-economic conditions, it also highlights how urban centers are likely more rigid when it comes to continued economic and labor market participation for older adults. This presents another opportunity to re-engage them in the labor market, through second career services, and offer active ageing solutions.

The dominant narrative in this sector is defined by the Government-to-citizen services and large non-profit organizations. The government policy and data captures people older than 60 as ‘senior citizens’ across board. This includes rural and urban populations, people across multiple economic brackets, those with and without secondary support systems, and those with differing health and financial conditions. Much of the government’s policy is towards welfare of senior citizens including basic income for economically weaker groups (Rs 200 to Rs 500 per month), higher deposit rates in banks, travel discounts and tax benefits. The draft National Policy for Senior Citizens 2020, on the other hand, is aimed at a revised pension, increased focus on financial security for seniors, senior-friendly tax structures, second career options, integrated insurance products and accessible healthcare for seniors. This shows a serious intent from the Government to re-look at how policies can be reformed to meet the new challenges faced by older adults. However, the policy is yet to be approved and thus not implemented.

As a country, our awareness about the ageing process and understanding of the needs of older persons are very limited, and at best reactive. In a closed survey conducted among 100+ individuals in the age group of 30-45 years, it was noticed that the overall awareness among those with older adults in their immediate families is quite low. This in some ways highlights the need to engage family members, and build a more holistic understanding of the challenges faced by older persons. Dr Gita Mathai, a family care physician based in Vellore, highlights basic at-home signals that one can use to understand the process of deterioration among older persons at home.

The non-profit sector, through organizations like HelpAge, provide more holistic support and also specialize in home and community care systems. Much of the efforts in the space are dependent on donor funds and government linkages. Beyond the larger non-profits, many community-led models exist around the country, and mostly in affluent neighborhoods, and with active participation of the resident welfare associations or senior citizen forums. There are also organizations that have expanded their work in the space of adult learning, vision care and mental health in areas with low-income population. The Adhata Trust based in Mumbai, and run by a senior corporate executive, has launched 10 community centers across the city. Samarth, based in Gurgaon, takes a more holistic approach to elder care, offering membership-based services and a digital app to access them. Caregivers Saathi, a non-profit based in Mumbai, has been established as an ecosystem for caregivers and their families. Their mobile app allows both caregivers and caretakers to calendarize routines, maintain contact list, and connect with family/friends.

A wide spectrum of private entities is also approaching the challenges in different ways. Organizations like Nightingales, Care24 and Portea provide at-home care services through trained caregivers, in specialized areas like diagnostics and tests, speech therapy, stroke care and physiotherapy. The folks at Silver Talkies engage with seniors in Bengaluru through an online portal rich with information pertaining to the ageing process, and also offer membership packages for group activities, travel, online classes, etc. Seniority, a funded startup from Pune, has taken a marketplace approach to fulfilling the unique needs of seniors. Some of the products like walking chairs, bed support and safety equipment, massagers, etc. can make the life of an older person safer and comfortable. Private skilling partners and industry associations under the Skill India mission are working towards standardization of training and certified care workers for elderly care, an area ripe to create jobs.

Another area that is open to opportunities is corporate programs with focus on employees with older adults at home, and better mid-and late-stage career transition programs. These could include training, testing, support and care services for employees with senior dependents. With more work-from-home scenarios, such programs can reduce the stress of employees, making them more productive while being caregivers to elders in the family.

The 2019 CII study on the senior care consumer market attempts to forecast the senior consumer market. The report offers a bird’s eye view of market opportunities in some of the areas like housing, banking and consumer products. The scale of the challenge and the opportunities in the sector make it a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors.

The ability to positively impact Quality of Life (QoL) of general population over generations helps understand how we are progressing as a society. Much research has gone into understanding and developing such QoL models for older persons around the world, however, there is very little conversation around it in India.

There is a universal desire for a higher Quality of Life (QoL), and particularly during later stages of life, and this is articulated in conversations across all age groups. It is achievable with better early-life planning, a longer active life and resources to meet personalized needs across various life stages. For example, a longer active life may result in more travels, extended careers, and higher digital consumption. Similarly, the transition from an active to a passive ageing phase may result in non-family secondary support services (home care, assisted living, etc.) by older persons and their families. There are various aspects that aid better ageing, and here is one such QoL model for India.

A private sector initiative that supports and fosters innovation, entrepreneurship and financing for this emerging sector would open up hidden market opportunities and also add to the improvement in the quality of life among generation population. The business opportunities in this space could emerge from new and established businesses, and with the right ecosystem, we have the opportunity to accelerate this journey.

Silver Angels is an effort in this direction. Feel free to reach out to me at mahesh@silverangels.in or on LinkedIn.

Mahesh Venkateswaran

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