With more than 10% of the population now comprising seniors, India is staring at a new challenge: ensuring the quality of life for our elderly – not just from a physical standpoint which means upgrading healthcare, ensuring safety, access to services etc. but also from a social, emotional perspective. The pandemic which has been particularly tough on the elderly has further increased the intensity and immediacy of the challenge, exposing an even bigger gap between the need and what exists. Recent surveys and trends indicate a growing number of seniors in cities living independently as a result of systemic socio-economic changes, and the sense of isolation and helplessness among seniors is widespread.
After nearly two years of lockdowns, containments, isolation, and trauma, the pandemic still continues, threatening to raise its head every time we feel the situation is getting back to normal. So are seniors consigned to lead a life of constant fear, isolation and helplessness or is there a way for them to reinvent and reimagine life in a world where the pandemic is a given?
Samarth (which means ‘capable’ in Hindi) is an initiative that is working to provide an answer.
A support system for every elderly in India
Launched in 2016 by graduates of IIT, IIM, Cambridge and MIT, Manipal etc., Samarth was inspired by the founders’ own need to care for their parents. According to Founder Asheesh Gupta, who worked with McKinsey & Company as a consultant before turning entrepreneur, “We were struck by how little organized effort and attention had gone towards meeting their needs and expectations. Four of us decided to put together our experience from strategy consulting, media, operations, technology and service with leading global organizations to solve this problem in our country at scale.”
The healthcare plan launched by Samarth also help the elderly manage their medical costs substantially on everything from medicines to consultation, hospitalisation, lab tests, physio, dental, eye treatments etc. Details of the community can be requested by a simple message to Samarth’s WhatsApp number 8700 677 878.
Getting more out of life in silver years
During the second Covid-19 wave, Samarth had set up Covid care centres with oxygen in multiple locations and made facilities available to elderly members. Asheesh Gupta says, “It is hard to say what the third wave may look like, but we are trying to be proactive about it, ensuring that all our members are aware of the risks, are prepared with critical needs, and we are ready to assist them should the situation become critical again. We want them to be able to live life fully even in a world with the pandemic.”
He added that the Covid pandemic hit the seniors really hard. Firstly, they were, and continue to be the most vulnerable in terms of infection and mortality. Two, the lockdowns and restrictions really led to a very strong sense of isolation for many whose contacts with others dwindled, and three, the restrictions on mobility and travel made it difficult for family members to visit them.
“The role and services of Samarth really came to fore in these times and we became extended hands of the children in caring for their parents all over India. Indians in 20 countries use our assistance to support their parents in India. Thousands of seniors reached out to us for support. We have helped overcome isolation and lack of mobility with our online live sessions, WhatsApp channel, newsletters, daily videos, etc. Several leading global and Indian companies have also partnered with us to extend support for parent care to their employees,” he added.
Knowing that the community stands with them in their hour of need is reassuring for the members and plays a very vital role in restoring confidence among seniors for continuing to live and enjoy life on their own terms.
For more information about Samarth Community, one can visit the website at www.samarth.community.