“Our mission is to enhance the experience of ageing for seniors through multiple opportunities of assistance, well-being, and recreation that contribute to independent living,” says Ridhi Shah, Co-founder of Parikrama, an active-ageing organisation. Parikrama’s team has 12 full-time members from different backrounds such as engineering, business development and research. Parikrama offers seniors over 50 an opportunity to feel like they are in school by learning innovative and engaging activities along with friends.
Poulomi Thakurdesai, 27, a user experience specialist who has worked for MNCs across the globe, and Riddhi Shah, 25, a London School of Economics alumna, teamed up to start Parikrama in late 2015. The Mumbai- and Pune-based venture began operations in September 2016.
Riddhi says, “Both of us have always felt a strong connection with the senior demographic—a sense of endearment. As empathetic individuals, seniors very naturally opened up to us. We saw a gap and decided we needed to bridge it. As entrepreneurs, we wished to engage in a business driven by impact and social good, in ways that add value and purpose in the everyday lives of our people.”
The organisation believes and reinforces the idea of active ageing in society. “While it is inevitable, how we choose to age determines our quality of life. As a society, when it comes to provisions we are extremely youth obsessed—we tend to focus on solutions and experiences only for the young/middle-aged demographic, completely sidelining the seniors in society. Being a complex process emotionally, mentally, and physically, the rapid changes in our surroundings make ageing more difficult than it already is,” reasons Riddhi.
As a user experience design and research-oriented company, every offering has been dictated by the demands of our seniors and, more importantly, co-created with them. The offerings for seniors are designed in ways that contribute to holistic well-being. One such offering by Parikrama involves interactive evidence-based learning programmes to strengthen seniors’ cognitive abilities, improve their moods, reduce their mental age, and stimulate their brain networks/functions.
“Learning is an attractive proposition for seniors because in one sense it allows them to escape into a setting where they gather in a group as students reminiscing their childhood—a time they cherish the most—to challenge their minds, engage in energetic conversations, compete with one another in jest, and in this process forget about the insecurities or loneliness that they otherwise experience,” adds Ridhi.
The cornerstone of the offerings at Parikrama is the introduction and integration of technology in the lives of our seniors. It involves:
Advocating the use of technology Ridhi says, “In today’s world not using technology, to a certain extent, disables access to information and shared knowledge. It almost feels like you have been left out, especially for some seniors who experience lack of affinity towards technology and its systems.” It’s because of the use of technology that the seniors experience positive changes in their lives—improved moods, diminished pain points, desire to re-connect with people they care for and activities they enjoy. While the seniors are educated on how to use technology, Parikrama also offers non-intrusive assistive technological products with the aim to assist both seniors and their caregivers. For instance, there are products that help Parkinson’s patients control tremors, improve cognitive strength, and provide alerts and fall detection. Curating, aggregating, and even designing these products for seniors is what Parikrama engages in.
All the offerings are given to seniors at minimal prices, depending on the size of the group. Parikrama’s programmes are conducted both at centres and at home for those who prefer individual attention or have limited mobility. Poulomi adds, “In some cases we even customise and create offerings on popular demand. For instance, post demonetisation, seniors requested to learn mobile wallets. People around them had started shifting to that medium and it became essential for them to keep up. On popular demand, we had conducted a session with over 120 seniors, teaching them Paytm.”
Additionally, as part of providing assistive technological products, Parikrama also curates products and partners with companies that meet the needs of the seniors from a user design and functionality perspective.
Speaking of marketing, the founders credit word of mouth, which has led to creating an offline relationship with 1,000 seniors in less than a year. Poulomi further adds, “Several organisations have expressed interest in promoting our programmes within their localities, centres, and clubs. The intention is to scale up and meet the needs of as many seniors as possible.”
One of the beneficiaries, 79-year-old Dr Doshi from Mumbai says, “I have met so many new like-minded friends with Parikrama, it’s like I’m back in college.”
Another beneficiary, 77-year-old Uma Vengulekar from Pune, says, "I am learning a lot which I otherwise wouldn’t. You won't believe I had a smartphone for three–four years and I didn’t know how to use it. I used to hate going to the bank; learning online banking has really helped me.”
“While in India over-60s are typically categorised as senior citizens, in our experience, a large percentage of seniors start thinking about their retirement as early as 45. When we started out, we attempted to coin a new term for over 50 and we are still in the process of doing so. However, ‘senior’ seemed the most relevant to us simply because of its connotation of being more experienced,” rightly reasons the duo.
An increased sense of awareness among seniors and their families to remain healthy and active has resulted in Parikrama’s offerings becoming successful.