Pandemic has been the toughest for the elderly; Here’s how technological innovation is helping them

‘The pandemic has been the toughest for the elderly around the world for many reasons which led to seniors feeling isolated, depressed, lonely. ‘

Retired Senior Citizens are the new globetrotters.

Indian businesses have largely ignored the massive needs of 110 million senior citizens – almost eight per cent of our population. It is surprising that with such a massive population of seniors, India still does not have a well-organized senior care industry. There are seemingly so many opportunities to improve the financial, social and physical well-being of the elderly. Yet, this industry often feels bereft of both technological innovation and entrepreneurial success.

There are many startups who have come up with new innovation and services for seenagers. Likely, Financial Express Online got in touch with M.P. Deepu, Co-Founder, SeniorWorld who talks about the types of services and products they have come up with to fulfill the demands of the seniors. Excerpts:

Please tell us about your company and the idea behind it?

SeniorWorld was born in 2015 with a strong vision of promoting positive ageing. After a long inning as C-Suite executives, Rahul Gupta and M.P. Deepu listened to their hearts to serve the country’s elderly population as it was a forgotten demographic. This sector is expected to double by 2050, implying that every 1 in 5 Indians will likely be a senior citizen.

When SeniorWorld started out,we realised that as a nation, we were not inclusive in our designs for products and services catering to the seniors. So we led an initiative to bridge this humongous gap by carefully designing products and services keeping in mind the various needs of the elderly population in India. Our vision is to build a world where seenagers (what we call our elders fondly) live an active, independent, engaged and fulfilling life. Being in this sector has been entrepreneurially challenging but socially impacting too and that’s what keeps us going.

Why do you choose to target senior citizens and what type of services are you providing them?

Most companies design primarily for the youth and the Silver economy is an ignored segment, SeniorWorld wants to change this.

SeniorWorld has an array of products and services to offer the seenagers which include Easyfone- customised,easy to use mobiles for the elderly, Juvo safety and alarm devices to help reduce injuries and increase safety & SilverWingsTravelswhich is a customisable & assisted travel service. SeniorWorld also has a strong, flourishing community of 2.5Lakh seenagers.These seenagers travel, participate in adventure sports, break stereotypes, learn new things like art, singing, dancing, technology and a lot more.

Anticipating our customer needs comes naturally to us at SeniorWorld and finds its roots in a famous motto that ‘Think of every customer like your parents, treat them exactly like you would treat your parents’.

What type of problems seniors face during the second phase of life and how startups like you are resolving them?

Seniors today have limited products & services that are specially crafted for their comfort, and this leads to a lot of frustration and self doubt among the elderly population when they try to catch pace with the evolving technology and automation. We at SeniorWorld strive to simplify technology for the seniors with every product or service we have to offer.

Seniors who might find smartphone menus and features overwhelming, complicated and confusing find Easyfone an apt fit to their requirements. Every feature in our range of mobiles is deeply and carefully planned to make the phones absolutely simple to use. We make sure every customer travelling with us has a unique, memorable experience which is unparalleled across the industry. Startups like us create focussed tech solutions as well as platforms for seniors to engage meaningfully to live fulfilling lives post retirement.

The products of senior citizens are high in price. Do you think, if the government reduces the tax exemption so the prices of products will fall?

We feel our customers have realised the potential of each product and service we offer.

I feel that if the government should relax taxes and exempt certain products and services it will certainly be a great step towards empowering more seniors with cost effective products and services but the greater need of the hour is to bridge gaps in availability.

There are many startups that have come up and are catering to seniors so how is your company different from others?

SeniorWorld is a pioneer product & service provider to the seniors in India. There are many companies that are following suit and catering to the seniors who were once a forgotten demographic but now find center stage across sectors.

Many of our products are patented. Features like SOS & Care touch on Easyfone devices have been a breakthrough innovation making us the market leader & preferred choice in the segment across all e-commerce platforms. Our travel customers like us for the level of personalisation we provide and this has helped us build a huge loyal base over the years. Our online community is thriving and witnesses very high, positive engagement on social media.

What is the age group of seniors who join the community and how do you differentiate the services according to their age?

We cater to Seenagers who are 55+ with our senior most Seenager being 93 years old!

While our mobiles are simple & easy to use, we’ve further simplified it and developed Easyfone Star for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer, Dementia, Parkinson’s disease as well as other age related diseases and their caregivers.

In travel we design the pace of our itinerary according to the average age of the group making it a relaxed experience for the seenagers. We also conduct age specific health talks for separate age groups. We also conduct special Yoga & Fitness sessions for Seniors with various health issues to help them live healthy independent and fulfilling lives.

During the Pandemic when we opened gates to Seniors who were feeling lonely due to isolation and started engaging them with various activities, a few elders found it hard to learn what Zoom Meeting was but we always hold their hand and this time too, they evolved and now we have our oldest Seenager using Zoom who is 83 years old. (Kudos Mr.Berry, We’ve come far and strong!)

Do you think there is still a gap in the industry and what steps should be taken?

Even though a multitude of efforts go into bridging gaps between the changing personas of various demographics around the world, there will be emerging gaps that will need to be filled. In 2021, The United Nations has adopted the theme of “Digital Equity for All Ages” which affirms the need for access and meaningful participation in the digital world by older persons. Recent reports by the International Telecommunications Union indicate that older persons experience digital inequity to a greater extent than other groups in society; they either lack access to technologies or are often not benefitting fully from the opportunities provided by technological progress.

At SeniorWorld digital equity drives our innovation and design process to simplify technology for the elders of all ages. Next steps:

● To bring awareness about digital inclusion of older persons

● To explore the role of policies and legal frameworks to ensure privacy and safety of older persons in the digital world.

Travel is altogether a big market but due to the pandemic the government has not allowed travel of senior citizens. What are your expectations from the govt. and how eagerly seniors are looking to travel?

Retired Senior Citizens are the new globetrotters. We recently conducted a survey to understand the intent to travel among seniors and found 86% eager to travel immediately or in the next 6 months and about 100% respondents were fully vaccinated. At SeniorWorld, we give safety paramount importance and that is one reason why we waited long enough to plan well & restart travel services for seniors. With impeccable quality benchmarks set in the past, this time around,we’ve set higher standards for ourselves hoping to lead the industry for safe travels. We look forward to serving our Seenagers soon!

How are seniors coping with pandemic and role startups like you play in their life?

The pandemic has been the toughest for the elderly around the world for many reasons which led to seniors feeling isolated, depressed, lonely. This led to a ripple effect on their mental and physical wellbeing and so SeniorWorld decided to change gears and start with fresh services for the seniors. We engaged them with games, learning programs, and engagement activities virtually. We also helped train multiple seniors on technology to help them catch up with the pace of current times and some of them even flourished to become influencers on social media showcasing their rich talent and zest for life! We’ve always had door to door after sales services for our products and we also added regular calls to our customers to check on their mental well being. ‘Time is the greatest gift one can give anyone’ echoes in the SeniorWorld office at Gurugram and is well transformed into action.

What are your future plans?

We would be launching exciting new tech-enabled products for the seniors to help keep them safe as well as independent. We also look at creating new avenues for the seniors to engage, learn and connect. Travel is also another vertical which is in the process of resuming with strong safety protocols. We continue to focus all our energies towards building trust among our Seenagers.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE, NSE, US Market and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, Check out latest IPO News, Best Performing IPOs, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Financial Express Telegram Financial Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest Biz news and updates.