In an ageist world where toddlers, teens and adults dominate the consumer graph, a trio in Chennai are thinking about growing needs of the rapidly greying—and largely ignored—section of the population. Faced with parents suffering geriatric ailments and few products to assist in their care, a trio of Chennaiites—Sanjay Dattatri and founder couple Jayashree and Prithvirajan—set up the Old is Gold store in Adyar, a Chennai suburb over a year ago. Since then, the store has been profitable, and plans are afoot to open another branch in Chennai and stores across south India. “It’s a shame that we are the only store exclusively catering to the needs of senior citizens,” says Sanjay Dattatri.
The shop has been a boon to Eswari Sundaresan, 76, who found her back hurting from long hours of sitting, watching TV or reading. A visit to Old is Gold got her a customised backrest cushion that she now props between the headboard and her back for support. Products like these pillows, designed for senior citizens, are a rarity in India, unlike in Europe and the US. “Disease and disability are two main concerns in old age. While healthcare is advanced in India, we are still lacking in products to help the elderly, and such stores are therefore vital,” says geriatrician V.S. Natarajan.
The gradual distintegration of the joint family means that elders live by themselves in urban areas. “Hopefully, stores like these will help them live independently,” says Prithivirajan.
The idea of Old is Gold sprung from the owners’ personal experience. All three had lucrative jobs in the US, but when their parents grew old and needed help, they returned to India to look after them. Repeatedly frustrated at not finding a single place which catered to their parents’ specialised requirements, they decided to fill the gap and set up a shop themselves. Initially, footfalls were not that high—about ten customers dropped in daily. However, as word got around, business increased steadily, and repeat customers drove sales up further. Orders over the phone and traffic at the Old is Gold online store too are going up now. “There is a market for highly customised products such as those available in Old is Gold for various needs of the elderly, from communication or mobility aids and more,” says Sheelu Srinivasan, founder president of Dignity Foundation, a body working for the welfare of the elderly.
Though demographically India is touted as a young country, numbers of the elderly are rising in absolute terms. There are about 100 million people over 60, accounting for 7.5 per cent of the population. One in two households has a person who is over 60. In India, most old-age homes are destitute shelters really; retirement homes often are not geared for the elderly and are in most cases regular gated communities marketed by realtors with an old age spin. Most distressingly, products to keep the elderly comfortable are still lacking, as if after full lives of service to society, they just don’t matter. That’s where Old is Gold steps in.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
In India oldies are rapidly growing and largely ignored.
Its a welcome respite that costomised products are now
there. Once I travelled to 400kms, to get a lightweight
Walker to my father. Western designed elderly help products
give better comfort to elders.
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