My father and mother are 80 and 76 years respectively. Both of them were born before independence and have seen the world change dramatically within their lifetime. My father first travelled to the USA in 1960 for further studies. He had to take the steamer from Mumbai to London and then fly from London to JFK. Since he had proposed to my mother already by then, in order to keep in touch with her, since snail mail (India Post) was the only form of communication available, they had reached a pact to write one letter daily to each other. A letter, then would take approx. 7-8 days to reach. After he returned to India, he took up a job in the corporate world and has since then seen technology touch every aspect of life – right from typewriters being replaced with digital typewriters and then eventually with word processors on computers and landline being replaced not only by mobile phones but even mobile feature phones being replaced by smartphones. With the advent of mobile smartphones, some of the advancements that have made life easy are the advent of Uber and Swiggy which have made mobility as well as food ordering very convenient. Similarly, banking has transformed from ledger keeping with token system for withdrawing cash to digital banking involving digital payments without any need to handle cash.
While the advancement through digitisation is a welcome change or more of a boon for the Millennial generation who are digitally native or even the Generation X like ours, it could be regarded as a curse for the Silent or even the Baby Boomer generation which is the ageing generation like my parents. They are digital refugees for whom digitisation poses a lot of challenges.
My parents, for instance, need to keep track of banking login id, login passwords, txn password, phone banking TPIN, ATM PIN, OTP for every payment and keep up with the frequent mandatory changes to passwords for security reasons. Furthermore, banks in their eagerness to constantly upgrade their digital banking offering are forever experimenting with their online web banking layouts and screens. This poses challenges to sr. citizen customers who by the time they familiarise themselves with the changes are in for a surprise when the screen further changes. With Digital India picking up speed, the entire ecosystem has turned digital – be it filing of tax returns, opening of bank accounts, payments via ECS or Bill Pay for utilities like telephone, mobile top ups, gas, electricity, rent etc . Same is the case when it comes to travel – be it train reservations, Visas (all countries require forms to be filled in online with dates of previous overseas trips etc followed by online appointment after payment of fees online).
While in one sense technology has simplified our lives, in another sense it has also complicated life for sr. citizens who all their life have been used to paperwork and personal interaction to get things done. Even for those who do make the effort to update their skills to keep up with the digital age, a challenge facing their generation is the constant fear of phishing by the Jamtara type gangs who are out to lure unsuspecting customers like senior citizens to share their online password and financial details.
Till recently, most of the parents would have their children around to help them with financial transactions. However, lately with nuclearization of families, children stay separately even though in the same city or sometimes even in a different geography with different time zones which makes it difficult to be there to help their parents. This makes senior citizens who otherwise may be fully mobile, digitally handicapped. I have seen senior citizens in our colony seek help from their neighbour’s daughter or youngsters. Digitisation, in the case of youngsters is increasing independence, however, in the case of sr citizens is increasing their dependence.
With longevity on the rise, sr. citizen’s present a unique and growing opportunity for startups to solve problems especially for those whose kids are settled abroad or in another city or even in the same city but elsewhere. The problems revolve around simple things like daily chores, subscriptions, renewals, utility bill payments, to routine medical attention – medications, doctor visits, short term nursing to a little more serious things like health conditions/ complications related to ageing ailments like arthritis, dementia, alzheimer, physiotherapy, requiring old age homes or long term nursing to using modern means of communication and setting up apps on mobile phone.
Recently, when I researched for assistance for health related conditions for sr. citizens for one of my NRI friends, I realised in the organised space there are a few like Proteas, Nightingales, Care24 who are focusing on solving health care related issues. However, the pricing is very steep. As against this in the unorganised space even though the charges may be more reasonable, one needs to network through word of mouth.
Presently, sr. citizens are looking trying to address their holistic requirements by enrolling for community living spaces. Athashree by Paranjpe builders (https://www.pscl.in/athashri/) in Pune is one such gated community meant exclusively for the aged, wherein all facilities like nursing, medical care , emergency services, open space, canteen, house help etc all are made available under one roof for residents. Another alternative is to seek enrolment with old age homes which are more like hostels. Besides these there are other alternatives like the OneAssist or Handyman or UrbanClap which provide utility services like A/c or Fridge servicing or white goods repair, house cleaning etc or services like Practo or Dhani which provide doctor appointments etc.
However, the need of the hour is to provide concierge-like services which become a one stop Shop for the vast multitude of needs. SenOcare (https://senocare.in/) is one such service recently launched in the NCR. It is a premium subscription based service which addresses the need for human touch by appointing Care Managers to be the go-to persons for anything that requires help – be it Form filling for Visas to handholding on how to get online for Zoom calls with your near and dear ones to help with payment of utility bills etc.
As can be seen from the above, there certainly is a gap that is waiting to be plugged. Anyone who introduces affordable services by introducing a tech platform which helps Uber-ise to meet the demand supply gap is bound to go a long way, especially if they can ensure to make it safe, reliable and friendly for sr. citizens. Cheers !
Acknowledgements : My Friend Ashish Parulekar and Sheetal Nagle for being a solid member of my blog support team.
P.S To read my other blogs on Cricketing / Corporate Tales, Start up stories, Finance, Covid Times, Friends, Family and Marriages go to the Home Page
2 thoughts on “Digital Age – a Bane for Sr. Citizens or a Business Opportunity ?”
You have touched upon a relevant subject. While Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media tools have helped our parents stay in touch with their friends, cousins, relatives and kids, other elements of technology can be truly overwhelming for most of them. Banks should simplify the online process for senior citizens while keeping security concerns addressed. While they can do so by simplifying technology, a more appreciated approach could be a dedicated customer service provider on call to answer all their queries. Nicely written Salil…..relevant and crisp.
Hey thanks Amit..just like dedicated service channel for NRIs, Sr Citizens certainly deserve dedicated attention.