Supporting the elderlies

The Tata Trusts have been designing approaches for dedicated interventions in the elder care sector since October 2017. The programme aims to enable approaches for improving the quality of life of 100 million elderly people and creating an empathetic ecosystem by demonstrating models to address their needs in urban and rural settings, for healthcare, engagement, and social and emotional wellbeing, thereby assisting elderly persons have a dignified, healthy and joyful life. Several elder care initiatives have been successfully launched under this programme to transform the geriatric care ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the global pandemic struck and brought in many changes. It has changed the lives of senior citizens too. It has exacerbated some key concerns experienced by elderly people on a day-to-day basis. The isolation and loneliness make them more prone to anxiety and fear and other mental health issues, which, in turn, adversely affect their overall health and well-being. There was a pressing need to provide support and engage the elderly, more than ever during these uncertain times.

Under the umbrella of the Elder Care programme, the Trusts ensured continued support to the elderly through their initiatives: Elder Care’s urban model implemented by Livolink Foundation, Bhubaneswar, till December 2020, and by the Vijayavahini Charitable Foundation, Hyderabad (associate organisations of the Tata Trusts), until September 2020. Tata Advanced Systems will continue supporting this initiative.

Due to lockdown regulations, the elder care activity centres had to be shut down. By July 2020, the Trusts informed the Government of Odisha that physical activity centres would be slowly phased out. However, a digital readiness survey conducted for the members of the activity centres in Bhubaneswar and Hyderabad in April 2020 had indicated that almost 52% of the elderly were willing to participate in online activities using digital devices.

Based on the results of the digital readiness survey, and with a vision of an elder-centric ecosystem through virtual support, the Elder Care team initiated a virtual engagement programme in April 2020 that promoted the use of online platforms to connect virtually with the elderly and provide support, and to create learning opportunities.

This virtual intervention consists of three main focus areas:

  • Engagement activities through WhatsApp groups / other online chat groups: These include health and fitness activities, recreational activities, cognitive activities, memory games, etc.
  • Engagement and learning using open interactive platforms such as Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Meet, etc, to conduct interactive sessions and webinars on relevant issues for the elderly.
  • Digital literacy training for elderly: virtual handholding to teach the elderly how to use applications and online interactive platforms.

Other interventions include connecting regularly with the elderly via phone as well as e-advisory services for physiotherapy, emotional counselling and e-volunteer programmes.

JOSH 2020

To celebrate the International Day of Older Persons, a 3-day online live talent show for senior citizens — JOSH 2020 — was organised on October 2-4, 2020. The event was a first-of-its-kind in the country, cutting across geography, language, religion and culture. It was conceptualised and implemented collectively by Vijayavahini Charitable Foundation, Hyderabad (Telangana); Livolink Foundation, Bhubaneswar (Odisha); Silver Innings, Mumbai (Maharashtra); and Tata Advanced Systems Limited, Hyderabad.

The event got an overwhelming response from senior citizens. Over 150 participants had registered from more than 17 cities. They exhibited a wide array of talents like singing, dancing, reciting poetry, storytelling and more. The event was broadcasted live on the official Facebook handle of JOSH 2020. The page received an outstanding response — 300 likes and close to 500 followers. These are some great indicators of the interest among senior citizens to have a community space on social media and of the event’s success.

Key challenges

Initially, there were a lot of challenges. The elderly members were not savvy with the use of virtual platforms and a lot of handholding support had to be provided to guide them on the download and usage of the apps. Mock drills were done individually to enable them to use the app to join the sessions and participate in the discussions. Daily calls had to be made to help them and to inform and remind them about the weekly virtual sessions.

Since the launch of the virtual intervention in April 2020, more than 2,500 calls have been made and 90+ virtual sessions have been conducted by the Elder Care teams in Bhubaneshwar and Hyderabad.

A lot of thought went into designing the sessions and liaising with resource persons to conduct the sessions. The lack of geographical boundaries, for either the elderly participants or the resource persons, provided the teams a wide scope to design these virtual sessions. Simultaneously, efforts were also made to mobilise more members to join the group and virtual programmes. Slowly and steadily, the programme has become very popular and members have increased by more than 50% based on word of mouth. Today, the WhatsApp group has approximately 200 members who have formed a close-knit community. Other extended groups have more than 200 members.

Interestingly, many of the members themselves have become resource persons for others. More than 700 senior citizens have been reached through the virtual sessions without duplication, and more than 2,000 programme-wise.

The participation in the WhatsApp group and in the virtual sessions has been overwhelming. Each of the elderly members are creative and the WhatsApp group gave them a platform to showcase their talent and creativity, and to share their ‘man ki baat’.

The new skills learnt in how to use online platforms have not only helped the elderly to participate in the Elder Care Virtual Programme, but have enabled them to benefit from a host of other online programmes that are available.

Despite the restrictions imposed by the lockdown, the members of the Elder Care community are engaged and cheerful, and eagerly look forward to their weekly online sessions.

Photo description of JOSH 2020

Participants showcased more than just enthusiasm in their performances — 93-year-old RN Mittal captivated the audience with the poetry of Ghalib and Gulzar, Laxman and Geeta Karia swayed the audience with their Kohli dance, Jayprada mesmerised the audience with her Saraswati Veena recital, Banbihari Das recited a poem with so much rhythm that members of the audience enjoyed themselves even if they didn’t understand Odia. The talent show represented the diversity among senior citizens and how nothing, not age, gender or experience, would get in the way of them participating, performing and enjoying.

To know more about the Trusts’ Elder Care Initiative, click here

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