Cherojit Goswami
Health & Wellness
Life Indeed Begins at 60

Adding life to years as opposed to adding years to life is a cliché that has been used in the health, wellness, and entertainment industry. The Lancet Journal confirms that the latter is true – India’s life expectancy has risen from 59.6 years in 1990 to 70.8 years in 2019. But what is exciting and interesting to note is that the former also holds water. Positive terms like ‘Second Innings’ have replaced the slightly morose vocabulary like ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Twilight of Life’.

So, are the elderly Indians ageing grudgingly and waiting for the inevitable? Alternately are they excited and see life through the carpe diem lens? I feel it is a mix, but increasingly leaning towards live life to the fullest philosophy. Earlier, retiring from work life was almost synonymous with retiring from life. 

The resigned to fate mindset has been replaced by the ‘make the most of the one life that you have’ mindset. The five potential reasons that are driving this trend, that is only headed in one direction, northwards.

1) Access to better medication and knowledge support for chronic ailments

Indian and multinational pharmaceutical companies with their original, biosimilars and generic products are catering to a host of chronic ailments particularly in the cardiovascular, diabetes, mental health and orthopaedic space. Increased competition along with the innate need to hold on to the patients have gotten them to create Patient Support Programs (PSPs).

The family members and the caregivers are also armed with disease related information. They do due diligence in taking care of their loved ones. This essentially helps the elderly not only manage their disease but also maintain their Quality of Life with minimum compromises. Abstinence is now sprinkled with a sense of adventure.

2) Amplified aspirations, unfulfilled dreams, with a sense of adventure

Increasingly the elderly Indians do not want to live with the feeling of unfulfillment or what could have been. With health permitting, body willing and mind eager, they are keen to explore. Dreams that got buried under the ‘earn the livelihood’ burden have resurfaced.

Violins are starting to be strummed again, the paintbrush strokes are making a comeback, the backhand down the line on the tennis court may have lost a bit of sting yet remains elegant, the dancing shoes are shining once again, and travels are going far beyond the usual pilgrimage destinations. Guarded restraint is slowly making way for an unbridled sense of exploration. They are keen to create new memories rather than live on nostalgia.

3) Healthtech boom and increased comfort with self-monitoring devices

The significant traction in the Indian healthtech space has led to taking remarkable strides in solving accessibility, affordability, and quality issues in the healthcare scenario. Telemedicine is making its presence felt in India and Covid 19 has only accentuated it further. Home healthcare and door step diagnostics adds to the comfort, convenience, and safety aspects. This is even more evident in attending to the health issues of the elderly.

Coupled with this, the increasing consumption of home monitoring devices for blood sugar, blood pressure, oxygen saturation (oximeters, thanks toCovid 19) and a few others on the anvil has only armed them even more. After all what can be measured, can be controlled. And when you are in control, you do not deprive yourself the pleasures that life offers.

4) Independence reborn, reduced responsibilities

A good trend that we are slowly following the west is that the elder generation no longer feel obliged or compelled to leave a financial legacy for the next generation. Increased disposable income and smart financial planning during their earning days have kept in securities at bay.

This gives the elderly the financial ammunition to not cut corners in doing what they love to do. Another fortunate change of trend is where the grandparents took it on them to attend to the growing grand children in India. With nuclear families and the grand children finding more comfort in gadgets and not their grandparent’s stories, have liberated the elderly even more.

It may not be entirely to their liking, but they are not complaining of the free time at their disposal. In fact, they no longer are only doting grandparents but partners in crime when it comes to exploring new gizmos with their grandchildren.

5) Varied industries providing bespoke products and services

Healthcare for the longest time had been in the forefront in keeping the needs of the elderly in mind. And rightly so. However, hospitality, tourism, entertainment, telecom, banking, real estate and FMCG industries to name a few are creating products and services that are catering to the 60 plus. Silver Jubilee Honeymoon packages, Golden Jubilee Wedding 2.0 events, ‘Marked Zones’ for elders in shopping spaces and top commercial banks with dedicated divisions to cater to the needs of elderly are just a few in the long list of offerings.

Properties for the elderly (old age home is condescending) ranging from the convenient to the luxurious offering basic services, healthcare support, recreational facilities and entertainment is fast finding takers among the affluent elderly. Ergonomic furniture, mobility and toilet aids, food supplements are being designed keeping in mind the needs of the elderly. It is a nascent market but will grow exponentially in the next decade.

There are striking similarities and patterns between a paediatric and a geriatric state of mind. The mind is curious, there is a sense of stubbornness, enthusiasm takes over pragmatism and a desire to get all that you seek. After all, is there a better sight than a grand father and his granddaughter doing a tandem cycle or for that matter 3 elderly female friends devouring their favourite chocolate sundae at the most happening ice cream parlour in the locality.

And it not only makes for happy individuals, but a more robust ecosystem and assured growth for the relevant industries which are pampering these 60+year olds. Their ‘Second Innings’ promises to be even more exciting not only for them, but for all else who are willing to play along.

There is no gain saying the fact that life indeed begins at 60.

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