As Kerala population ages, a Kochi start-up offers creative solutions for the elderly

Happy Mindz, a Kochi-based start-up, tries to solve problems faced by the rapidly growing population of elderly people in Kerala.

BySreerag PS

Published Oct 01, 2022 | 8:00 AM Updated Oct 01, 2022 | 8:00 AM

Happy Mindz

And now, a start-up to make Kerala’s elderly population live a happier life.

Pynadath Jose Jolly, formerly HR head of Flipkart’s local operations, resigned from his job to start Happy Mindz, an initiative to cater to the needs of the state’s senior citizens.

“I got the idea when I saw the plight of the elderly people in my neighbourhood,” Jolly told South First.

“I saw old people with so many different problems: health problems, psychological problems, they all needed help, and no one to help them.”

According to the government’s Economic Review 2021 , Kerala has the highest percentage of senior citizens or people over 60 — in its population among Indian states: 16.5 percent. And this is projected to swell to almost 21 percent by 2031.

October 1 is celebrated every year as International Day of Older Persons.

Numbers of elderly on the rise

And even as the elderly population grows, Kerala’s youth population is shrinking, as more and more young people leave the state in search of better colleges and better jobs.

For instance, an estimated 30,000 students are believed to have moved abroad in the last four years.

This twin trend has left an increasing number of senior citizens looking for a supporting shoulder — either for a sympathetic ear and counselling, or for specialised and customised care.

It is here that Happy Mindz comes into the picture, offering varied services as per the requirements of the elderly.

And demand has not been lacking; the company receives regular requests for services that range from accompanying or spending leisure time with the elderly, to providing assistance for serious health ailments.

“Our clients have varying needs,” explained Jolly. “Some people are in good physical health but are disengaged from society, some people suffer from various health conditions. We analyse the client’s needs and deliver our solutions.”

Happy Mindz services

One of the programmes offered by Happy Mindz, set up with the support of the Kerala Start-up Mission — or KSUM, a state government agency to promote entrepreneurship and incubation activities in Kerala — is a community care initiative called “Koode” or Together.

The initiative involves the company’s staff spending time with the elderly person it has been hired to take care of.

They hold one-on-one sessions to help aged people combat physical, mental, and emotional problems, including loneliness, that are common in old age. Leisure activities are also planned to keep them engaged.

The service offered is frequently more than mere hand-holding. For instance, the firm was once approached by a man based in the Netherlands after his mother, living in Ernakulam, was diagnosed with brain tumour and cancer.

“She was bedridden,” Jolly recalled. “After analysing her condition, we were able to draw up the proper engagement plan, and our staff were there 24 hours providing care,” he said.

On another occasion, the head of a corporate firm approached Happy Mindz after his mother started showing signs of clinical depression. “We curated an action plan to help her overcome the illness,” Jolly said.

Positive response

The response from the target audience has been positive, going by the feedback of Bindu Shanthakumar, who availed of the Happy Mindz services when her mother developed an advanced stage of dementia.

It was a difficult time for everyone, she admitted to South First; the services provided at the hospitals were not what her family expected, while coping with her mother’s condition at home was very difficult.

What struck her about Happy Mindz services was “the regular” follow-up on the condition of her mother, and curating a plan of action to help her recover.

Doctors checked up on her mother once every week, and in Shanthakumar’s view, recovery was possible only because of the “unique service” delivered by the company’s staff, who fit in with the conditions.

“Overall, this was a new experience for us,” she said.

Start-up support

On his part, Jolly credits KSUM for being a major factor in the success of the venture. According to him, the agency provided all resources, including external funding options, and guidance on the business models.

However, he admitted that the growing old age crisis could be only be dealt with through interventions at multiple levels.

“The need of the hour is more companies coming up in this space to provide a better life for the elderly,” he said.

“More people should start similar ventures in the state.”