Reaching out to the elderly like their own child
Unlike the West, where generations have known and thus accepted that children would grow up and move on, the first generation of Indians are now facing the prospect of living by themselves in their sunset years. The solutions - old age homes or relocation to join their children - are unacceptable to many of them even as they find themselves left in the cold. To make life easier for such elderly people, Manjiri Gokhale Joshi, an entrepreneur from Pune, has come up with Maya Care. Charges are calculated on the basis of the number of hours that a Maya Care volunteer spends on an assignment.
Manjiri says it was conceived as a small dream - to provide services to senior citizens and a source of livelihood to women. Since its launch in October 2009, the dream has evolved and is now a movement propelled by a growing network of volunteers across seven Indian cities, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, New Delhi (National Capital Region) and Ahmedabad.
Dual objective: Manjiri conceived Maya Care as a project to provide services to senior citizens and jobs to women
“What we have on the platter is simple services such as accompanying senior citizens during their visits to the doctor, or when they go out to attend some function, reading to them, writing letters for them, assisting in computer-related work, bank transactions, or applying for a gas connection,’’ says Manjiri.
When they started out, it began as an all-women venture. But now they also have male volunteers. Their volunteers include home-makers, students, retired professionals, and even the physically challenged. “Our creative designer is Manasi Gokhale, a hearing impaired but qualified graphic designer. Our Administrator is Jyoti More, a lady with polio who cannot leave home or even sit on a wheelchair and she handles our back office calls and e-mail,” says Manjiri.
How did it begin? ``In 2007, when I was heading the Voice (BPO) business at Zensar Technologies in Pune, we were contemplating setting up an interactive ‘chat’ service for senior citizens who live by themselves. We did not implement it as we realized that with the developments in technology, senior citizens can easily communicate with their loved ones, who may be living in other cities or countries. It was obvious that senior citizens needed more than to ‘talk’, someone to come home and visit them. Maya Care was launched in October 2009. It was started by my mother, Dr Vidya Gokhale and me as a non-profit, self-sustainable venture, self-funded with no venture capital or corporate funding.”
Prior to launching Maya Care, Manjiri had been a journalist for around ten years and has had stints in Corporates including Zensar Technologies. This experience, she says, had given her the confidence to launch Maya Care.