They are a fiercely independent lot. Yet, there are times they need help. With most of the younger generation in their families away in different cities and countries, the elders of today are facing a different set of challenges – the need for aid, not just at the clinical level, but at non-clinical level as well. Through ElderAid, Vandana Nadig Nair and Santosh Abraham are providing just that in Bengaluru. With the funds they plan to raise, the duo aim to extend these services to Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad in the near future.
“During one of our family emergencies, I realised that my aunts and uncles, who live in Bengaluru and had children in other cities and countries, needed help and support on a regular basis. There were just three of us in the city who could take care of their needs. This realisation made me think about other such elders who didn’t have family living in the same city,” recalls Vandana Nadig Nair. And hence, she set out to research and identify what happens to such people.
The story of Santosh is also somewhat similar with his aged parents in Trivandrum and the frustration of not being able to be there to help them. Hence, in 2015, Vandana and Santosh put their heads together and started validating the idea of elder care. “We spoke to couple of hundreds of people, elders and their children, who validated the need ‘a ‘proxy child’,” says Vandana, a psychologist by training.
ElderAid Wellness was born with the belief that eldercare goes way beyond healthcare. The company aims to be the proxy child and operates with the vision of providing holistic end-to-end support to the elders to help them with a happy, healthy and secure lives. “We step in to take care of the administrative activities of the elders which gives them a sense of security and stability and their children relief from the guilt they carry,” says Vandana.
Understanding the environment
“There is enough research to show that elders stay physically well, when they are happier and content. And, therefore, wellness is a holistic construct,” says Vandana. However, in India the predominant focus is on healthcare. There is a dominance of reactive services currently like full time nursing aid or physiotherapy at home which takes place after an eventuality. “We are more into the proactive stage and are also about unlocking mobility, even though we provide some reactive services,” says Vandana.
While trying to understand the landscape, the founding duo realised that what children see as need to the elders and what the elders see as need for themselves are very different. “Children are predominantly concerned about their physical health, safety and security and marginally about the emotional and social needs. The elders want to travel, meet youngsters and understand technology and lead a more vibrant life,” shares Vandana. For ElderAid, very often the customer is the child of the elder that they take care of. “We urge them to engage us when their parent well in advance so that we can build a trusting relationship. It will help us when things go down,” says Vandana. She notes that they are dealing with the generation of elders who are independent and frugal. “The next wave of elders will be of a different set,” adds she. In many ways, she believes that service like theirs, in Indian context, is a little ahead of time.
There is enough research to show that elders stay physically well, when they are happier and content. And, therefore, wellness is a holistic construct
What’s on offer?
The company offers services as different packages such as comfort pack at Rs 1,900 per month, get-well pack at Rs 4,200 per month and premium pack at Rs 7,200 per month. The services include emergency assistance, medical history documentation, weekly telephonic check-in, monthly BP check-up and social-cum-errands visits. Other related health, concierge and wellness services like accompanied hospital visits, nursing staffing support, bill payments, shopping assistance, at-home tech support, accompanied travel and social visits are offered as add-ons on a pay-as-you-use basis.
It assigns its care managers geographically who take care of their needs by directly delivering them or enabling them. If a client needs a fulltime person, ElderAid team reaches out to its network of partners for the same. The company’s care manager will visit the elders home to ensure smooth functioning of things. “We work with a network of associates – individuals and associates who plug and play for different additional needs,” shares Vandana. The company has tied up with smaller agencies that offer services – nursing and errand people. “We have partnered with organisation called Swathi, which assess the homes of the elder to check how safe it is,” shares Vandana.
The journey so far
Currently operating in the Bengaluru market and registered as a social enterprise, ElderAid understands what it takes to service the elders. It periodically conducts wellness awareness events in apartments. It currently has 65 elder families and has supported about a 160 plus families so far. “The health packs contribute only 25 per cent of its revenue,” says Vandana adding that the majority of the need is for non-clinical services. The company has not found any need to add additional service offerings or change its service packs other than nominal increase in price.
“Customer acquisition is a challenge,” admits Vandana. The team is trying to drive the message of wellness and that is a hard sell as it is not a popular idea yet. There are many cultures where the notion of wellness is easier to understand either because culturally it is so or they have passed the health threshold. Take Singapore, for example. The health needs are well taken care of. And focus is on wellness and so on. “One could argue that in India, we are still at the health stage and that could be one way of looking at it. You are also dealing with the cultural mindset – not only are elders independent, and there is this whole emotion that my child should take care of me,” says she.
Where to from here?
Elder support is a space which will evolve in the next three to five years. The company’s current focus is to stabilise and grow operations in Bengaluru before it enters across cities India. The company has raised seed fund from two individuals who believed in the cause. It is now looking for angel funding.
ElderAid has also had a preliminary conversation with a couple of large hospitals in Mumbai and is looking forward to launching its services there. “It is a market which will be a lot quicker to acquire than Bengaluru,” opines Vandana. After Mumbai, over the next three years, it is also looking at expanding in Hyderabad and Pune.
- One has to get the talent acquisition right. We are a service delivery organisation and talent goes wrong, then it spells trouble. Elders can be demanding clients and they are also relationship focussed.
- Get your processes right. It is about keeping them simple. Elders are not a dashboard and our care managers have separate whatsapp group for each of clients and children. You have to give information real time.
- Partnerships and collaborations are important. Do not attempt to do it yourself when needs are huge, find the right partners who will do it with you.