MUMBAI , INDIA / SOCIAL MEDIA / MAY 22nd 2013
Case Study: Silver Inning Foundation’s Journey- A Cascade of Unconventional Approaches : by : Anjali Saigal ,NMIMS University Part Time MBA(Social Entrepreneurship) , Under Guidance of Dr Manjari Srivastava
A major challenge that India is facing is the progressive ageing of the population, including the risk of a growing gap between the generations. Especially as fast developing new technologies increase the distance between the younger and the older generations. Silver Innings Foundation (SIF) was formed to address the micro and macro level issues of the elderly to create an elder friendly world. It had decided to proactively use Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Social media and networking to sensitize the community and society towards the cause of Elderly and promote intergenrational programmes and empower elders in their own community / locality. It has attempted to bring young people and seniors together and tackling the “digital divide” Other inclusive activity like Foot D Ball to Stop Elder Abuse, youth tying purple band to senior citizen etc were successfully implemented. In June 2011 it became a part of The joint action committee (JAC) consisting of 23 organizations which work for the welfare of senior citizens in Maharashtra/Mumbai and decided to go on state-wide agitation from June 2011 against the non-implementation of 1999 National Policy of Older Person, (NPOP).
Additionally SIF provided a wide range of innovative, good quality services for elderly based on their changing needs. It wants to have an age integrated society and promote intergenerational activities to ensure social cohesion.
Sailesh Mishra was reflecting on his journey as a founder president of Silver Innings Foundation (SIF) while waiting for his flight to UN headquarters in New York where he was invited to participate in Third Session of the prestigious ‘Open-ended Working Group on Ageing(OEWG). An idea germinated by him took shape in 2008 with help of four individuals, Hendi Lingiah, (France), Prof Parul Kibliwala (India, SNDT Women’s University), Swati Ingole (MSW, Mumbai, India) detailed background in Appendix 1 in form of Silver Innings Foundation to address the micro and macro level issues of the elderly to create an elder friendly world. Sailesh left his corporate job for his passion to work with Senior Citizens, which he believed was the most neglected and ignored segment. He wanted the government, the public at large to give the elderly their rights and to take responsibility for their development. He wanted them to take efforts to integrate older people in their daily activities and not isolate them. The turning point in his life was the death of an resident staying in Dignity Lifestyle Township for the elderly and for who suffered from dementia. The son of the deceased man living in Canada when informed about his father’s death, coldly asked them to cremate the body. That is when Mr. Mishra realized that there was a need to sensitize elders and their family members about ageing. It was evident to him that the Indian society was changing rapidly. The value systems and family structure once India was proud of have seen a sea change. Nuclear family had been on the rise and sometimes even the aged parents were left to fend for themselves. Senior citizens homes or old age homes/communities were no longer alien concepts in India. It was a solution sought by most from the so called modern and educated generation. A majority of the old age homes or day care centres did not cater to the senior population suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. There were only a handful like Helpage India , Dignity Foundation. Mr. Mishra initially set up a website with a couple of friends, to sensitize people about the issues relating to ageing and elders concentrating on Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
He wanted to move away from “push” (one-way) communications and to move towards a type of communication in which the seniors and youth can interact with, listen to and engage constituents. The decision was taken to proactively use Information and Communications Technology (ICT), social media and networking to facilitate in the sensitization of the community and society towards the cause of elderly and promote intergenerational programmes and empower elders in their own community / locality.
Silver Innings Foundation (SIF) was established with a vision is of creating an elder friendly world in which ageing becomes a positive, rewarding experience. Its mission was to uphold and secure the rights of elderly and actively work towards improving their quality of life by networking, advocating and researching elderly issues and providing a wide range of services according to their needs. Its objectives listed as the 10 commandments was to mainly to work with elderly and to provide wide range of innovative, good quality services for elderly based on their changing needs and to utilize their experience, knowledge and skills for the betterment of themselves and society.
The organization was registered as a trust in 2008 with five trustees and five office bearers. The office bearers including the founder president Mr Sailesh Mishra was involved in day to day working of the organization. There were only two paid staff and 85% of the work was done by Mr Mishra, Bhavesh Chheda handled the creativity and technological aspect and the Mr .Chittranjan contributed to only 5% by assisting in networking and linkages. Volunteers and consultants were recruited programwise as per the requirement.
SIF was started with seed funding from Unltd India in 2008 and until they got tax exemption certificate, the fund requirement till date is mostly met by personal savings and small donations from friends, relatives and well wishers. Accumulating financial resources to set up this foundation or to scale up had been a challenge since day of inception as evident from their account statements in Appendix 3. Alternative and cheaper ways like social media were essential in promoting the cause and sensitizing the people.
Social Media and SIF
The “New Web” has been incremental in transforming the way people interact and even the way they think. It has started to occupy a vital portion of many organizational and business strategies at all levels. The need for utilizing these technologies for non profits is becoming more evident.
Social media platforms have the ability to help NGOs by providing various strategic tools for engagement as follows.
- It has been imperative in building relationships with stakeholders and communities and also networking and fundraising.
- It has been facilitating campaigning to a large and sometimes even specific group allowing for more reach at a cheaper cost.
- With the huge and steady increase in the numbers of social media users worldwide and across various platforms (pcs, Mobile phones etc.), social media has become an opportunity for non profits to share their messages with the masses using free tools available to support the vision and objectives of such organizations.
- Social media has attempted to bridge the ever-increasing divide between the youth and the elderly.
The computer and the Internet are not usually associated with senior citizens, but SIF decided to use the Internet to highlight the plight of the elderly in the city. The first thing they did in 2008 was float a virtual space online and launched a one-stop information portal www.silverinnings.com which served as a single-point destination for senior citizens. They put up information on helplines, old age homes, and police station numbers. Additionally they also began addressing issues like ageism, Alzheimer’s, dementia care management and memory loss, which had been affecting a number of senior citizens included information on how to make a will too.
The foundation’s creative head, Bhavesh Chheda analyzed the internet usage patterns among senior citizens across the country decided to set up an exclusive blog space where senior citizens could
- Discuss important issues and the problems they were facing.
- Senior citizens would be able to interact with each other and share their problems and also combat one of the key issues of loneliness.
- It provided space for the youth to interact with their elders
SIF and Its Unconventional Approaches
Sailesh Mishra’s main intention with SIF was to network with likeminded organization and not to work in isolation but in partnership with other service oriented organization.
In a first-of-its-kind initiative they conducted training for senior citizens in partnership with Sterlite Foundation in three centres in Mumbai to familiarize them with computers and technological advances that go with it. They provided training in regional languages to make the senior citizens understand better. It served dual purpose as the knowledge and teaching classes would keep them occupied and it would also yield opportunities for retired senior citizens to have a second career. They strongly believed that technology could bridge the gap and create synergy between the youth and the senior citizen bringing them on a common platform.
To create awareness it used ‘Silver Inning Newspaper’ which was created in ‘Paper.li' that automatically creates an online Daily Newspaper about topics related to senior citizen Alzheimer , Dementia. Subscribers would receive their online newspaper each day filled with top stories around the same content topic. It’s a great way for you to automatically aggregate online content relevant to your topic and push it out to your online community. Till date they have had 88 subscribers belonging to different age groups.
SIF became a referral NGO 24 x 7 Senior Citizen’s Referral Helpline that was started by The Nargis Dutt Memorial Charitable Trust along with Dial ‘1298’ for Ambulance in association with Help Age India, Harmony for Silvers Foundation & The Federation Of Senior Citizens' Organizations Of Maharashtra (FESCOM) in 2010. It was set up with the aim to be a one-stop destination for information for the elderly and their family members and has been receiving more than 100 calls daily since. The calls relate to information regarding the elder care by families but more relate to senior citizens who have been harassed by their family members/ friends. Many cases are specifically related to legal and property maintenance.
In 2011 pilot project “Foot D Ball to Stop Elder Abuse” along with Team Alfresco FC –Mumbai. This event used a holistic approach to promote ‘Sports for Development’ through Football. SIF believed that fusion and synergy between youth & elders will help them to achieve their vision of creating elder friendly world where ageing becomes a positive and rewarding experience.
This intergeneration activity with sports for development concept through football was tried for first ever time in this part of the world for promoting Elder Cause and to create awareness about Elder Abuse in civil society. Football has been one of the most patronized sports around the world. Organizations driven by local social entrepreneurs, use the power of the beautiful game to positively transform their communities. Development through football has been an important issue within the development cooperation and social work sectors. SIF recognized the potential that football and other sports could unleash when systematically included in processes of social change. Football especially has the power to unite people and cultures all over the world. As a team sport it promotes fairness and tolerance, leapfrogs gender boundaries and fosters mutual understanding, thereby contributing to the positive development of personality and character.
It also introduced Purple Security Band inscribed with the words stop elder abuse during the match . It involved the youth tying these purple bands to the elders. The rationale behind this was to create awareness amongst the youth and opening channels of communication between the youth and the senior citizens.
SIF and Advocacy
Elder Abuse as explained by SIF occurs with the family. It can be in any form most prominent being the children and grandchildren disrespecting the elders, back answering them, intentionally disturbing them , play television music systems etc very loudly . Government is also doing a lot through its Legislative & Executive Machinery for Senior Citizens by laying down an extra ordinary National Policy on Older Persons 1999 and the Maintenance & Welfare of Parents & Senior Citizens Bill, 2007 etc but Government Abuse of Senior Citizens is lethargy in their implementation. Judiciary, although empowered and instructed to expedite cases of Senior Citizens, little progress is achieved (Ruparelia, n.d.).
On 15 June 2008 SIF launched an Online Petition to address the issue of Elder Abuse and this was one of the effective medium to create awareness and petition the Central and State Government and the Society at large with the problem and recommendation.
The petition broadly classified elder abuse in different categories and it laid emphasis that the problem of elder abuse has to be dealt with on both ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ levels. Also, a multi-pronged approach which was required from different professionals who have an adequate understanding of the phenomenon of elder abuse, the dynamics of ageing, abuse within and outside the family, cultural and societal influences, of appropriate helping strategies to implement this knowledge and listed down recommendations .
In response to the injustice and neglect of senior citizen, 16th August 2010 was observed as a National Protest Day. It supported a demand a separate Ministry and Elder Right protection Law for 90 million Elderly in India. It requested the government to view of active NGO and stake holders before finalizing the new National Policy for Older Persons (NPOP) of 1999. In June 2011 it became a part of The joint action committee (JAC) consisting of 23 organizations which work for the welfare of senior citizens in Maharashtra/Mumbai and decided to go on state-wide agitation from June 2011 against the non-implementation of 1999 National Policy of Older Person, (NPOP). The joint action committee demanded declaration of State Policy for Senior Citizens, which the committee has claimed is lying unimplemented since 2002. It also insisted on formation of State Council of Senior Citizens and Commission, under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Social Justice for effective promotion and coordination of the concerns of senior citizens and establishment of multi-service day care centres, so that they can be utilized in social activities and for improvement in physical and mental health of the elderly. Activists have claimed that has been no support or funds from the government, agencies, or corporate sector for the elderly, in the state that has around one crore senior citizens (60 +), out of which 66 per cent are poor, while 90 per cent lack social or health security. They further asserted that in the 2011-12 state budget the government has conveniently ignored the implementation of those policies which it had deemed as vital for the welfare of the elderly (Mishra, 2010).
As a result of nationwide activity, there has been some semblance of positive action from the Central Government such as concessions in Income Tax structure, Railway fares, quantum of Old Age Pension, eligibility criteria for concessions etc. There are also numerous glaring disparities in payment of pensions to retirees from different sectors, causing severe hardship in some cases. These need to be highlighted and their redressal sought.
The UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) was established by the General Assembly in 2010. SIF got accredited to the same in 2011 with the purpose of strengthening the protection of the human rights of older persons in India . SIF was represented by Sailesh Mishra at Third Session held in 2012. On the opening day, the Indian ambassador gave a rosy picture of the current scenario of health care for the elderly in India. He even had the nerve to say, “Why do the elderly need rights? Their development is the responsibility of the society and their families. What can the government do?
He was asked to make an opening statement on the floor of the house the next day and was amongst the six that made oral presentation that day. He emphasized on major five gaps that need immediate attention (Appendix 6) through National and International Instrument (Mishra, Official Statement of Silver Inning Foundation, 2012. He Observed that of the member states, Costa Rica and Argentina were the most passionate about promoting the cause of gerontology. These two would even hold a briefing for NGOs every morning. But the EU and the USA were extremely against the state having a stake in elders care, because they do not want to spend on it. An interesting dimension to this issue, he noted was that the Western countries, while reducing budgets assigned to social welfare, are aggressively studying the family concepts prevalent in south Asian countries, where parents and their children live together all their lives. But by contrast, we in India are going towards the Western concept of nuclear families and even smaller units. Where does that leave our elders?
But what he took away from his UN outing was the inspiration he felt after meeting people who had been working for the cause of elder care for decades which also motivated him to believe that he was on the right track and he still has a lot to learn.
SIF and Others.
SIF strongly believes in collaborating and networking to provide a better platform. Of all the players working in this space only Dignity foundation is working in isolation and catering to a niche group. Rest all like ARDSI (Alzheimer’s Society India) , Helpage , Harmony , FWA (The Family Welfare Agency) etc support each other immensely by sharing resources and knowledge. SIF also networks and has build relations with other NGO’s not related to senior ctizens like Mobile Creche , magic bus.
A child never writes to a grandparent maybe only school compositions directed to the teacher's eyes only. SIF used strategy for getting kids and senior citizen to talk to each other on paper to promote cross-generational written communication.
Additionally it wants to create opportunities for intergenerational interaction and accelerate its efforts and include innovative strategies that synergize and move in concerted direction towards an age-integrated society where intergenerational interaction is natural across the domains of family, community and the workplace.
Overcoming scarcity of financial resources needs to be addressed for reaching this goal. How can it grow its reach and cater to other social groups ? It has started experimenting with entrepreneurial activities which include consultancy for senior citizen residences , day care centres, providing training on soft skills to develop paramedical staff to take care of the elderly and latest being matrimonial services for the 50+ .
Generating funds by developing entrepreneur activities appears to be the most feasible solution. Though it will reduce dependence on donations and grants and make SIF financially sustainable but is it appropriate to generate funds from already neglected section of the society ?
I acknowledge with gratitude the guidance by Dr. Manjari Srivastava in preparing this case study. But for her timely and prompt inputs this would have been a seemingly arduous task to accomplish.
I take this opportunity to profusely thank Mr Sailesh Mishra for his valuable time, inputs and constant help and support in my effort all along.
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