In Conversation With Rajit Mehta

Rajit Mehta is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Antara Senior Care

What is the Antara State of Senior Survey all about and what does it attempt to understand from the senior population of India?

By the next two decades, 20% Indians will be in the age group of 60 and above, and this changing demography requires a seamless ecosystem that would cater to the needs of the elderly population.

Antara State of Seniors Survey attempts to understand the preferences and opinions of seniors in the post-COVID world, highlighting their mindsets, attitudes, social preferences and purchasing behaviour.

This year’s survey, which builds on the first edition released in 2020, shows that following the pandemic, behavioural patterns of the aged have undergone a sea change, which the report analyses and explains.

According to the survey report, what are the issues that the seniors faced while accessing healthcare during the pandemic?

India, like the rest of the world, was caught in the eye of the storm when the pandemic hit in 2020. The survey report reveals that most seniors faced significant challenges while accessing proper healthcare facilities. During the second wave, the Indian healthcare infrastructure was so stretched that 70% of the respondents said that they had faced difficulty to even access basic healthcare amenities. The survey found that seniors residing in metropolitan cities such as Delhi and Bangalore were the most affected by this situation. The report also gives us deep insights into the gaps in infrastructure, initiatives needed to ramp up healthcare facilities, and ways to ensure how seniors could live an independent and fulfilling life.

What do you think is the future of healthcare considering the findings from the report?

In the post-pandemic era, there is an increased emphasis on improving care quality, clinical outcomes, and patient experience in India, and specialised services like care homes and care at home services have emerged as a big support for it. For seniors who need consistent treatment for chronic ailments or pre-existing medical conditions, specialised care options are safer with reduced risk of infections. They provide specialised care through dedicated caregivers ensuring timely medication, regular clinical assessments, and clinical audits.

Emerging concepts like assisted living and care at home facilities are going to see a huge demand in the upcoming years. However, there’s a lot of groundwork that still needs to be done. Antara plans to set up a network of 35-40 care homes in the next three years and engage more well-equipped, medically trained professionals for its care at home services.

How did the elderly fare in India’s COVID-19 vaccination programme? What does the survey report reveal?

The survey report says that while almost 85% of the seniors got their first two doses of vaccine on time, there was a significant decline in the number for the booster dose.

Even after the government’s announcement of availability of booster shots for the elderly, only a small percentage of seniors, amounting to 25%, had taken the booster shot by the end of May. About 55% seniors surveyed are still waiting for their turn, and around 17% said that they are facing difficulties in understanding the schedule. It’s worth noting that Mumbai, which was one of the worst hit cities during the second wave of COVID, is the least performing city in terms of booster dose as well as for timely vaccination.

What are some key learnings from the Antara State of Senior Survey 2022?

The insights recorded in the report reveal that India requires a strong policy framework for financing geriatric care and a strategy to create a welfare ecosystem for seniors. Increased life expectancy, improved affordability and changing family structures are some of the driving factors to enhance elderly care in India.

The fact that over 50% of the respondents said that they faced mental health issues, 70% faced difficulty in accessing healthcare, and about 53% felt that India is ill prepared to deal with COVID-19, is a reminder to increase efforts in geriatric care.

The growing elderly population and the concerns that they are dealing with, will eventually increase demand for care and resources, both medical and non-medical. Thus, building and implementing a robust policy framework is necessary.

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