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It was eight months ago when Smriti Mongia placed her first call to an elder care service. Mongia’s 71-year-old mother needed to go to Tuljapur for a religious ceremony and she herself could not accompany her mother due to her own children’s exams. “It was on a friend’s advice that I called them for a companion for my mother’s travel. After returning, my mother was all praises for the girl. She told me how they talked about different subjects. My mother lives with a caretaker. Later, I found that these people charge hourly and send someone across just to provide companionship services. Since then, I have someone coming to her visit her every week. Frankly, it makes me a little less guilty as I can’t spend enough time with her due to my own family,” says Mongia, a resident of Sinhagad Road.
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Over the last couple of years, entrepreneurs have woken up to the fact that elder care services is a commercially viable business, leading to a number of such paid elder care services coming up in the city.
Coming at a cost between Rs 500 per hour for specific day-to-day needs to Rs 15,000 per month for a three times a week visit, these companionship services are a big hit in the city. Only three months old in operations is 50plusassist.com, run by a team of three young professionals having nearly five years of experience in field of elder care. The service operates in Pune and New Delhi.
Dr Mrigna Nagraj, its head, says taking care of her own dementia-afflicted grandmother helped her understand the needs, concerns and problems the elderly face.
“We noticed how parents, often of NRI children, felt bored. All they required was company and some basic help in monitoring their health. But children were often clueless about how to provide that support. That’s where services like ours fill the gap. Right from cognitive stimulation for patients of Alzheimers and dementia to calendering of elderly person’s schedule to even managing their house like replacing maids or finding them a good grocery vendor, we step in wherever they need a care-giver,” Dr Nagraj says.
After a multi-national company they worked with recently stopped elder care services in Pune, clinical psychologist Anita Gaikwad and Karvit Punj it started offering the same services on their own. Most of their “customers” are busy professionals who cannot devote time for daily activities with parents. “Sometimes, all we do is to go and learn a new skill from the elders, like knitting, and they get so much joy in teaching you. Sometimes, we accompany them to a movie or mall. For them, it’s special to have someone visit only to meet them, often they are not aware it is a paid service,” she says.
Just like entrepreneurs have woken up to elder care services, e-commerce hasn’t stayed far behind. About a year back, start-ups like seniorshelf.com and oldisgoldstore.com, came up with products and specialised aids for the elderly. For Rahul Upadhyay, the founder of seniorshelf.com, it was the hassle to find a simple blood pressure machine for his mother which made him realise the disregard for an elderly person’s shopping needs.
“That’s why I thought of starting a website dedicated only for elderly shopping needs,” says Upadhyay, whose website offers products ranging from wheelchairs to adult diapers, toilet safety products and innovative products like glow in the dark vision tape to plastic writing ring for person with arthritis to write with more dexterity.
The website has also tied up with home-based service providers to provide companionship services. “In our country, almost a third of the elderly population lives alone. That’s why it’s important to give them home-based services. Today, start-ups have suddenly realised the spending value of this segment and their care-givers,” Upadhyay says.