Today was our first day of work. We visited the Nightingales Medical Trust Bagchi Centre for Active Ageing in JP Nagar. We were really impressed with this center, because it was based on a scientific research study (the ThinkingFit research study in the UK). The center’s mission is to encourage Indian elders to socially interact, maintain a healthy lifestyle, be financially secure, and, most importantly, be happy.
Immediately, upon entering, we were surrounded by bamboo walls and an open environment. We learned that senior citizens can pay a monthly fee for membership to the center, and there are a variety of activities held there each day that promote physical and mental exercise. For example, they run yoga classes and have sessions for brain games.
I was itching to observe and talk to Indian elders. Knowing your customer and your target population is key to making a good product. Indeed, our team’s mission is to make our elder care portal accessible to elders, their families, their caregivers, and eldercare organizations.
We were able to talk with many of the senior citizens at the center and hear their stories:
One of the main takeaways from the day was “social isolation.”
For instance, one woman held my hand and spoke in broken Hindi, Bengali, and English to me:
“My son won’t let me be in the house alone. I don’t know why.”
She was confused as to why she was there, but it seemed that she was genuinely happy to talk to someone. She kept repeating her life story, and I mainly listened while responding sporadically in a mix of Bengali and English back to her. I wondered if she would have been as open to me, if she didn’t know I was a researcher. Would she remember us or our purpose of being here? More importantly, would our website help her in any way?
Another man spoke to us – he was much more lucid than the previous woman. However, his need for social interaction and mental stimulation was blatant. He approached us, without fully knowing who we were, and said:
“I’m retired, and I’m bored. I like logic and mind puzzles and watching French philosophers on YouTube.”
There were others who spoke to us, and we were delighted that there was such a positive reaction to our project. One man came up to us and said “God Bless you!” and proceeded to converse about the U.S.:
“I know the Great Lakes! HOMES, right?”
Overall, our visit really inspired us to find a way to encourage sharing information beyond medical expertise through our site. As a team, we decided we didn’t want to be just a site disseminating medical information and advice; we wanted a way for elders and senior citizens to build a community online.