How Technology Provides Vital Support for India’s Ageing Population

21st October 2022
How Technology Provides Vital Support for India’s Ageing Population
Senior Citizens' Cyber Choice. Graphic: Anand Parthasarathy

October 21 2022: Older adults – usually lumped together under the honorific ‘Senior Citizens’ – are a difficult demographic to serve, and an often-neglected sector of society.  Marketing surveys tend to concentrate on the so-called high spenders, from teens to thirties and rarely try to reach out to older customers. This is a mistake.
As of 2021, there were an estimated 138 million persons, aged 60  --the most common age of retirement in India -- or more,  constituting some 10 percent of the population. By 2050 this number is  expected  to rise to  around 320  million, or 20 percent indicating a slow but sure greying of the Indian population.
Though small in numbers, this age group represents disproportionate spending power, because the aged  need different products and devices to support them, and  many are ready to pay for it, or have progeny who do it for them.
GetSetUp, is a global organization serving the learning needs of older adults, headquartered in San Francisco, US with two of its three co-founders -- Neil D’Souza and Deval Delivala —born in India. 
Earlier this week GetSetUp released findings of a global survey on how people aged between 55 and 75 are learning, staying active and socializing online.   The survey has released India-specific numbers from its study which throw a rare and interesting light on the lifestyles and preoccupations of Aging India.
The central finding is that technology is the tool for graceful, meaningful ageing today. Says the survey report: “As older adults increasingly embrace technology, it's transforming the way they consume content online. The accessibility of smartphones, tablets and other devices has enabled this generation to access learning content and information in new ways, creating a new generation of digitally savvy seniors.”
Healthcare, educational and personal technology product companies will find these India-centric findings of interest:
Indian device and online preferences
The mobile phone is the most popular device for media consumption – Over 72% of seniors use it for accessing virtual learning and fitness help. But the desktop PC is not too far behind with nearly 26 percent of older users prefer it
Chrome is the dominant browser in the 55-plus age group, with 36.8% of the users since it allows for sophisticated video streaming solutions. But interestingly close to 29% tend to concentrate all their Web based activities around Facebook, which shows how successful this app has been in becoming a one-stop shop for all social media and e-commerce needs of its users.
GetSetUp serves the senior community by offering a large slate of learning modules. It attracts over 4 million older adults every day, with online modules in English, Hindi, Spanish and Mandarin.  There are   numerous free   lessons at  its site including dozens by Indian teachers in singing, dancing, Hindustani classical music, cooking etcAny senior can take up to 10 classes a week.  But those to subscribe, paying Rs300 a month have a choice of over 500 classes a week. One perennial favourite is a session for technologically unsavvy on how to use common personal technology devices available today.
Detailing  some of the challenges Indian seniors experience,  GetSetUp co-founder Deval Delivala wrote in a recent blog:
“It is essential that the government look to adjust state pensions to match the ever-changing costs of living and adjust for inflation. These should be looked at yearly, and not left unchanged for a decade… Older adults are now being forced to take matters into their own hands and take on work (post-retirement) to ensure access to daily needs and to make ends meet. Since pensions aren’t enough to live on comfortably they are having to adapt. With a bit of innovation, technology, and creativity, urban older adults are finding ways to supplement their pensions.”
“Many are learning new skills in order to stay viable... Technology classes on virtual social learning platforms have topics ranging from how to use Gmail or to how to use smartphones or set up a Zoom call or use mobile banking apps. These technology skills can then be applied to many diverse work opportunities that older adults can do directly from their homes… The top three most recent income streams for older adults include remote work, contract work, and entrepreneurship.”
She reminds us that  67% of India’s older population resides in rural areas. "This segment is particularly vulnerable since most of them do not have a pension due to their agro-based informal employment.:
 Ms Delivala concludes: “We need to address this issue as a community and include government resources, the private sector, the business community, non-profits, and other organizations to assure that we can help as many older adults as possible.”