Growing old is a natural phenomenon that we must all gracefully accept, but it can become a problem in the absence of proper care, love and support from family. Thanks to the the marvels of medical science, life expectancy is expected to increase further, from 67.5 in 2015 to 75.9 over the next three decades.
In India, the current senior citizen population of 130 million is expected to more than double to 300 million to constitute 20 per cent of the population . With a rapidly growing 60-plus population, India is faced with the Herculean task of providing basic senior-friendly urban infrastructure.
Need for organised senior caregiver communities
These days most aged people are left alone at home, confined to solitude with minimal care and support, while their adult children are out at work. According to a study, 64 per cent of senior citizens living in an urban setup fall prey to loneliness and depression. The loss of physical independence along with mental and societal insecurities due to retirement or death of a partner can take a toll on the elderly as well. Here, are some possible elderly care formats.
Retirement communities: These communities offer independent living for senior citizens through senior-friendly infrastructure and trained personnel for elderly care. The care-givers help with daily chores, medication and movement. As part of such communities, seniors feel secured, empowered and cared for and can lead a stress-free life in a social environment.
Since most senior citizens do not want to leave their home even when faced with chronic ailments, home-based care becomes all the more important. In India, new startups are offering specially trained nursing and caregiving assistance to the elderly at home. These professionals are specially trained to handle various physical and mental ailments. They also assist in non-clinical care such as housekeeping, nutrition planning, daily activity support, counselling and organising social group interactions.
Technology to the rescue
The use of wearables and sensors for detection and recording of patient vitals, automated logging systems, real-time data updates, etc. are some ways in which technology is transforming the way we look at healthcare. Effective use of these technologies can help caregivers to offload certain work areas and unburden themselves, thereby allowing them more time to perform tasks that essentially require human touch. For instance, a health app can not only accurately record, analyse and update patient vitals such as blood pressure or heart rate but also relay any inconsistencies to the caregiver or doctor online.
Formal caregiving is rapidly evolving from a large custodial institutional set up to a more community-based care system. The notion of professional homecare is growing in India with technology-based innovation seeping in slowly into this segment. In order to serve the rapidly increasing demand for elderly care at home as well as in an institutional set up, we need to design solutions that cater to the market needs. There is a need to broaden stakeholder engagement at every level to create an effective foundation. As a nation we need to focus on capacity building at the systemic level in order to use technology to successfully address the needs of our ageing population.
The author is MD & CEO of Portea Medical