An active proponent of healthy and happy ageing, Nidhi is co-authoring a book for Penguin Random House on how the landscape of ageing is shifting in India. Nidhi has been the recipient of leadership awards for her work in the eldercare space and is currently a member of the CII Seniorcare committee. In this interview, I chat with Nidhi to understand active ageing, why it is more relevant than before, and how Silver Talkies is shaping those conversations.
Nidhi, we first met in early 2020 and I recall you speaking passionately about the eldercare ecosystem and particularly about active and happy ageing. What do you mean by active ageing? Why is it important, particularly for older adults and seniors?
As per International Council of Active Ageing, active ageing rests on 7 pillars – physical, intellectual, emotional, social, vocational, spiritual and environmental well-being and if you were to ponder over these aspects deeply with regards to the elders in your own life you would find that each and every pillar is vital for an older adult’s well-being. We discovered this through our own experience with our ageing parents at home. Their intrinsic well-being needs to be complemented with extrinsic factors, including how our system, society and infrastructure supports them with their ageing needs.
With age comes natural physical changes which are often accompanied by decline in mental, social and emotional well-being due to various reasons like empty nests, nuclear families, shrinking social circles due to death and disabilities, lack of engagement opportunities etc. Early retirement age, increased longevity, progress of technology leaving seniors behind have only added to this mix, thereby making it increasingly important that we address these issues exclusively for our seniors.
We must give them opportunities for social and intellectual engagement, looking beyond their physical health and catering to their holistic well-being. We must empower them with the necessary skills, information and opportunities so they continue to stay included in our society and age gracefully, happily and with dignity. It’s time to redefine ageing and make it a lively experience despite the inevitable downgrade in health and abilities.
You have seen the evolution of the eldercare space in India over the past decade. What has changed over the past few years, and what hasn’t?
Back when we started out there were hardly any players in the eldercare space, many of them being in the unorganized sector. Over time we saw many companies with interesting concepts come and go, either because the market was not ready for the idea or there was no funding available to scale up.
The focus continued to be on physical health and senior living. Concepts like companionship, second careers and engagement continued to be unheard of. Over the years the landscape has been evolving and hopefully shifting for the better. Even the healthcare and senior living sector is seeing more depth in terms of the kinds of offering that are coming up in the market. Home healthcare, transition and palliative care are emerging; assisted living and ageing in place concepts are being introduced and are better understood. However, there still remains a large unexplored territory that can lend heavily into an older adult’s overall well-being. Focus on physical health continues and active ageing centers are far and few.
Pandemic has put a spotlight on the needs of seniors like never before, prompting organizations, government as well as investors to take a serious look at the sector as a potential opportunity. However, success will still be hard to come by unless a mindset shift happens where there is an increased awareness about the positive impact that all these services can have on the lives of older adults. With the next generation used to a different lifestyle, have better financial freedom and a stronger desire to stay well and independent, we are likely to see adoption of these services much more quickly.
Silver Talkies has gone through different phases of evolution. What are the core activities you undertake, and who is your target audience?
Silver Talkies has three main verticals.
- Our digital magazine covers topics across four main categories – health & wellness, money matters, living and people & stories. Our magazine features original and well researched content generated either in-house or through our contributing experts and members, across topics that would be of relevance to seniors and their caregivers. We also shine light on awe-inspiring seniors and focus on positive ageing stories.
- Our community invites older adults to join Silver Talkies Club – a safe space for seniors to discover themselves as well as find new friendships across geographies. Our club members enjoy exclusive events, learning opportunities, meet-ups, buddy support, expert help, partner offers and vocational opportunities. They also contribute to our magazine and share their skills and knowledge with other members.
- Our workshops and weekly classes are open to both club members and non-members and cater to different interests and needs. Our awareness sessions are also open to all.
Our target audience is anyone who is 55+ residing anywhere on the globe. Our current offerings are available only in English language. In the near future we plan to introduce programs in at least a couple of Indian languages as well.
With longer lifespans, older adults prefer assisted living arrangements or ageing-at-home services to support activities of daily living (ADLs), nursing and attendant care needs, mostly in urban areas. Do you work with such partners to support healthy ageing?
Yes indeed, these are practical needs of any older adult. We are working at meeting all needs of seniors under one roof by having strategic tie-ups with carefully selected and leading players across different segments of eldercare. We already have tie-ups in the healthcare, tech assistive devices and lifestyle segments and in the due course will be buffering up this strategic pool of partners. We also facilitate connecting our members to right experts and service providers in the senior living sector as and when requested.
Can you expand on the general customer profile of Silver Talkies members? How do they benefit from your membership services? Any anecdotes would be much appreciated.
Silver Talkies members come from varied backgrounds and consist of homemakers to lawmakers; introverts and extroverts. Diverse personalities have found home at Silver Talkies Club. They are well-educated and cosmopolitan in their attitude. They may be 55+ but they are young at heart with great zeal towards life. They are adventurers and lifelong learners, willing to experiment and explore new horizons.
With Silver Talkies’ engagement opportunities our members have been able to fulfil their dormant desires and also acquire new skills. They have found multi-city friendships and managed to banish the loneliness blues. They have been able to get and give advice, share their own skills while also learning from others in the group. They have learned to dance, sing, act and walk the ramp! They have discovered the writer in them and have become digitally literate. With the common interest groups like gardening, quiz, literary, wellness they have found shared interests with other members and actively interact with them on these topics.
Anecdotes are plenty, sharing a couple of them.
Sunita Thakker a member from Mumbai who was experiencing the empty nest syndrome after her only daughter’s marriage is now an active and exuberant member of Silver Talkies community. She has not only found multi-city friends who are ever ready to host her when she is in their town, she has also found a new passion for painting and music. Thakker has also been taking care of her physical health through online fitness classes. She is a regular at monthly quiz and storytelling sessions and makes it a point to attend as many activities as possible, as the virtual format allows her to fit them into her schedule easily. She is just one shining example of a senior who has found a new zeal of life after joining a community like ours.
Col. Tavamani who served the nation all his active years, now lives alone while his married daughter lives some distance away. Col. Tavamani was dependent on his wife to take care of him and the household. He didn’t even know how to make a cup of tea. So, when she passed away, he found himself spiraling into depression. In his words becoming part of Silver Talkies rescued him and he is now an active learner and member. Col. Tavamani has benefitted from the tech classes and now proudly considers himself tech literate.
How big is your team and what is next in the journey for Silver Talkies?
We are currently a ten-member team including the core operations and the tech team. The year 2020 was a silver lining for us amidst the dark clouds. The pandemic pushed us to pivot our model from being a Bangalore only community to becoming a pan-India virtual community. Currently we have members from 12 different cities. With the help of our technology partner, we are working at offering our services through both web and mobile channels, making our services easily accessible through preferred channels. We would continue to simplify accessibility while leveraging technology to scale up and positively impact lives of seniors across the globe.
Our vision is to be a global platform with city chapters, offering our engagement modules virtually while holding city meet-ups quarterly. Currently, we are working at enhancing our value proposition and introducing the missing building blocks of the active ageing framework. We envision an empowered society of older adults who have learnt to take care of themselves and are able to age with grace and dignity.
Silver Talkies invites non-members to experience the benefit of the club membership via a 30-day preview offer where they can attend member exclusive events and learning modules and participate in all member activities. All details are available at www.silvertalkies.com
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