A recent news story on CNBC.com reads that India’s seniors are driving a new wave of business.
India has the world’s second-largest population of people over age 60. Life expectancy is rising, and it appears that many seniors are prepared to spend money (that they saved over their working years) on products that will meet their needs.
The country’s young entrepreneurs are responding. One company looking to meet those needs is Epoch Elder Care, which provides services in larger centres, including Delhi and Mumbai.
The company employs eldercare specialists, who typically have Master’s degrees in psychology or occupational therapy. They provide elderly clients with “intellectual companionship.”
A company focused on shopping, called Senior Shelf, targets adult children of elderly people. The children tend to be computer-savvy, and can shop for their parents. They now have about 1,400 products to choose from, including talking clocks and utensils for the arthritic. One of the aims of this young company is to provide a selection of care facilities for the elderly.
The company Luxury Roots offers tour packages for the elderly, which include on-call doctors and rest time between sightseeing activities. “Senior” business makes up 60% of the company’s overall business.
The owner of Age Ventures India, Arun Gupta, says that today’s 65-year-olds in India are different from the 65-year-olds of fifteen years ago. “They know what a good life is,” he says. His company manages retirement homes and consults to retirement-home developers.
The seven million seniors in India who are middle- and upper-middle-class are targets for several of those developers. They offer high-end condominiums with special facilities for the elderly.
One company that does this is Silverglades, in New Delhi. Its director, Mr. Anubhav Jain, offers “a complete lifestyle, not just a retirement home.”
Units (for people aged 55 and higher) have emergency control systems in the bathroom, bedroom and living rooms. There is also one-call medical help, housekeeping and canteen services.
Ms. Chandrika Rastogi, founder of Luxury Roots, is pleased to be dealing with seniors. She says “they shower you with love and blessings” (not to mention a willingness to spend money!).
On the other side of the fence (so to speak) is a recent article from the Marietta Daily Journal in Marietta, Georgia. The columnist Mr. Charlie Sewell, Police Chief of nearby Powder Springs, discusses some of the problems with unlicensed care homes not only in his state, but also across the U.S.
He says that because of abusive family members, unlicensed care facilities thrive. While some are good, Mr. Sewell (perhaps surprisingly) compares others to Nazi concentration camps.
As these unlicensed facilities have no oversight, and cost less than licensed facilities, they provide a very low quality of care. They skirt the law by apparently offering varying services while using “varying” names.
They sleep up to ten elderly people in one room (some on the floor). One facility in Florida apparently fed residents frozen dinners costing 88 cents each. Another tied a resident to a chair to avoid a fall, as the resident had recently had hip surgery.
In Michigan, a fire in a 1,500-square-foot house that turned out to be an unlicensed care home killed four seniors in their beds, and another who had been sleeping in her regular place, under the kitchen table. No sprinklers or smoke alarms were found in the house.
In Marietta, the Police Department recently discovered an unlicensed care facility that they called a “House of Horrors,” where the patients were abused physically and had no beds, working toilets or baths. Insects were found in the refrigerator.
Mr. Sewell describes the problem as growing in the U.S.
In British Columbia, we are fortunate by comparison. We don’t have the “extremes.” We have several private facilities across the Province that are excellent. There are also many excellent facilities funded by the Provincial health authorities.
I would not suggest that there are no incidents in care facilities here. There are some every year, but I suggest they are not widespread.
Perhaps the main problem we have is a lack of space. As in India, life expectancy is rising and the demographics are shifting.
As the years go by, there are more of us above age 70, and more likely to need care facilities. This problem will not be solved quickly, and in the meantime, families sometimes struggle to cope.
This column ran in the Richmond Review on May 7, 2014.