The key demographic drivers of population ageing are declining fertility, increasing longevity and international migration. Globally, the 65 plus age group population is growing faster than all other age groups. The World Population Prospects data suggests that by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over age 65 vis-à-vis one in eleven in 2019, an increase from 11% to 16%.
In India, by 2026, the number of seniors above the age of 60 is expected to grow from 143 million to 173 million and by 2050, 20% of the population will comprise of seniors. The Aging Iceberg theory suggests that there is a deeper meaning behind cognitive disabilities and overall decline in health parameters. This is a result of loss of autonomy, emotional distress, loss of social connect, isolation, financial insecurities, possible elder abuse and spiritual anxiety. Parents are becoming more isolated & vulnerable than ever before. With children often settled abroad or working in distant cities, there is a systemic struggle to provide quality care for their parents. Even when they all live together, with work responsibilities and other pressing social and financial obligations, it becomes emotionally challenging and physically taxing for children to provide care as needed by the parents.
Out of $120 billion market size, nearly 40% of healthcare spend is attributed to Silver Economy and this is expected to grow to $320 billion by 2022 in India. For a long time, the industry focus has been on reactive healthcare, post event care and illness specific care – a system that waits for a problem to arise before jumping into action. The reactive approach to healthcare works well, however, this approach needs to change because not only is it expensive but also ineffective in meeting the needs of today’s senior population. While technology and adaptation has contributed to a tremendous paradigm shift defined by proactive measures in the healthcare landscape, the senior citizen segment has been the slowest to adopt to this transformation. This digital generation gap leads to information crisis for older adults and this in turn may precipitate further declines that are irreversible. In India, healthcare providers and organizations do not work well together – this further increases costs as well as bottlenecks which sets back the narrative and ethos of planned and seamless elder care.
An industry full of potential especially with AI ushering in a new era in healthcare, what needs to be addressed is a macro dimension to ageing. According to data, while 82% of the ageing population does not require palliative or intrusive care, only 18% need interventional care depending on the illness wellness continuum scale. The real issue is to address the psychosocial needs of living. Healthy means happy and therefore it is imperative to integrate the two by trying to develop a heightened sense of awareness – picking up on little details and reading between the lines of what the ageing population really wants. The end goal is to keep them a happy demographic by creating curated life journeys which leverage technologies and hyper personalized services. The need of the hour is to also provide a holistic and spiritually empowering inner journey of healing, rejuvenation, building purpose and fulfillment to discover their Ikigai. Currently, existing retirement solutions are predominantly driven through the prism of real estate development with a promise of healthcare and facilities conducive to senior living. However, necessitating an investment into a real estate class. If later life living were meant to truly be carefree and providing a superior experiential journey then the need of the hour is to provide later life living solutions purely on a Lifestyle as a Service (LAAS) model.
Care givers or carers become an integral part of these services by focusing on the need for Person-centered care. Dignity, confidentiality, reliability, healthy communication and striving to understand the pre baby boomers is absolutely necessary in order for carers to build a rapport with them. Respite care is highly overlooked and over stretched to capacity and needs to be addressed so that the gaps in the system can be bridged. While technology adoption is an issue with this generation, forcing them to adapt will not achieve desired outcomes. There is a need to develop, implement and seamlessly weave technology into retirement living that will make a difference in their activities of daily living (ADLs). Non-intrusive sensor-based technology that detects, records and communicates in advance can dramatically improve the quality of life, deliver better care and restore dignity in their later living years.
(The author is Mr. Kanishka Acharya, Founder & CEO at Welldercare, India’s first Lifestyle as a Service (LAAS) later life solutions provider.Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)