How Gurugram-based organisation Samarth is helping the elderly live an independent life
Smitha, a retired government employee, has two children who have settled abroad and want her to live with them. However, the widowed senior citizen wishes to stay in her homeland, but she cannot live alone due to her medical conditions.
Many retired urban senior citizens like Smitha wish to live by themselves, but their children are unwilling to allow that either due to the old-age limitations or a lack of adequate care. But one initiative is finding solutions to enable senior citizens to live an independent and social life.
Founded in 2016 by Asheesh Gupta, Gaurav Agarwal, Anuradha Das Mathur, and Sanjay Ahuja, Samarth aims to bring peace of mind to India’s elderly and their children.
The startup provides professional assistance and support to the elderly to help them live independently. In times of the pandemic, their pre-planned execution helped their members with the requirements, despite the lockdown.
In a conversation with SocialStory, Asheesh Gupta, Co-founder of Samarth, talks about how they are changing the face of eldercare in the country.
The need for peace of mind
“The idea came to us ten years ago when we realised how busy we were in our lives, and that our old parents needed an ecosystem of support that helps them live independently,” Asheesh Gupta tells SocialStory.
After talking to friends and family of the same age and at a similar stage in their lives, they realised that the issue was becoming more imperative in many families.
Busy schedules of the children make it nearly impossible for aged parents to keep up with them. So, many prefer to live by themselves but are crossed with their independence due to their health and age-related problems.
“We came to realise that the peace of mind is something that two generations in a family needed – the parents who wanted to live independently, and their concerned children who are worried about the same,” he explains, adding, “retired parents also wanted to live a more active life and enjoy their retirement.”
The Samarth community
Samarth claims to have built India’s largest community of the urban elderly. Members can access a card from their paid membership that provides them with benefits such as healthcare, activities that physically and mentally engage them, in addition to making them feel like they belong. The community has about 40,000 members in 110 cities across the country.
“According to our research, parents cherish their independence as much as possible, and consider moving to an old age home only as their last resort,” says Asheesh. “So our main goal is to help them continue to stay independently at their own home.”
According to the team, the most effective method of communicating is WhatsApp. However, before the pandemic, the groups had local meetups, RWA meetings, and senior citizens’ meetings at least once a month. The team also helps organise trips for them across India and even overseas. They also have an online portal where the elderly can apply for jobs, and where they can work as consultants.
The organisation also provides high-quality care to the elders in their homes, whose families are unable to take care of them. The service covers emergency, healthcare, convenience needs, home safety, companionship, proactive support, and engagement.
Samarth has a local care manager in every city who acts like an own ‘child’ to the elderly enunciating the medical assistance, while also keeping them company. Around 99 percent of their workforce comprises of women who have left their ‘nine-to-five’ jobs for the cause.
So far the company has been self-funded, and has raised additional funds from family and friends.
“We’ve developed a technology using AI to assess the health of our members, like a wellness index,” says Asheesh. “We’ve also looked at developing tools to help children look after their parents, since not everyone needs an assisted service. This is why we will be looking for an investment.”
A saviour to many in the pandemic
“With the pandemic, our work shot up. We saw this coming in February, and started jotting down our plans,” says Asheesh. “I am very happy to say that when the lockdown was declared, all the members under our care were stocked with food and medicines for the following weeks.”
However, the team faced a challenge in reassuring the members as the news about the elderly being at high risk became widespread. “While earlier the usual check-up calls would last about two to three minutes, the calls now lasted about 20 minutes on an average,” he adds.
The isolation, coupled with the fear of being in a high-risk group, created a scare among the members. However, Samarth had ensured that the necessary services like home delivery of medicines, essential kits and groceries were arranged – a service that is still ongoing.
“On the business side, in the last three months, we’ve added customers at double the pace than we normally do, because in many situations, the children were not able to get home to their parents,” says Asheesh.
The team also opened a free COVID-19 helpline for any and every elderly in the country, and has been running this for the last three months. With this, they have provided support to almost 2,000 individuals in 30-40 cities across the country, other than their own community.
Like Samarth, startups likehave also been helping the elderly in India. Their technology-powered community-based response mechanism is helping the elderly across Gurugram, irrespective of whether they were part of their paid customer community or not.
Talking about the road ahead, Asheesh concludes, “With the pandemic’s impact, we are now seeing significant growth in terms of the need. We are now working to extend the technology to help the children find a way to take care of their parents without any additional assistance.”
Edited by Kanishk Singh