COVID-19: 24/7 Helpline Launched to Assist Senior Citizens
At a time when the world is facing a serious health crisis and cities across the globe are under lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus, two Indian tech companies have merged forces to launch a free 24/7 helpline number for senior citizens. 
 
Seniority, one of India’s largest shopping destination for seniors, and DocsApp, a leading digital healthcare platform in India, have joined hands in an attempt to provide exclusive medical assistance to those above 60, a group most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
The round the clock helpline (080 4719 3443) is meant to bust myths, reduce panic and help educate the elderly population on coronavirus, says a joint press release from the two companies. While people of all age groups are equally susceptible to COVID-19, the health stakes are much higher for the elderly due to chronic illnesses and lower immunity. They are most likely to suffer from underlying conditions that hinder the body’s ability to cope with and recover from serious illnesses. 
 
This helpline aims to help people access skilled medical professionals during critical times. Individuals on the platform can avail free online consultations across all departments from doctors at the convenience of their homes, without possibly exposing themselves to the virus on the platform. 
 
Seniority and DocsApp have also created a repository of informative articles, blogs, weekly newsletters and webinars to impart accurate information and safety measures related to coronavirus, states the press release. 
 
Seniority, an RPG (Rama Prasad Goenka) Group Company, claims it is India’s largest shopping destination for senior citizens and that it has more than 10,000 products ranging from medical and wellness to leisure and lifestyle. 
 
The founders of Seniority have stated, that they launched the helpline as part of their duty to spread awareness about the current situation seeing the number of COVID-19 affected people is increasing worldwide, including India.
 
“Being a senior care brand, we are especially empathetic to the elderly in such challenging times and consider it our duty to spread awareness about the current situation. Our collaboration with DocsApp will help us reach out to a large number of people who are prone to virus infections,” said the founders of Seniority through the press release. 
 
“With the 24/7 helpline support, we are happy to extend our services and offer free consultation by medical specialists to ensure that people take adequate care. The safety and welfare of everyone around is of prime importance to us and we sincerely hope that we are able to fight back together in such unforeseen circumstances,” they further added. 
 
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    COVID-19: Access to Essential Services Hampered by Poor Lockdown enforcement
    Outbreak of COVID-19 has forced the Maharashtra state government to take strict action to restrict movement of people and private vehicles throughout the state, and borders of unaffected districts have also been sealed.  While this action was necessary, in the short term, ham-handed implementation by the police on the ground, has badly disrupted the distribution of essential services. 
     
    Alhough essential services, some of the large food distribution companies such as Grofers, Big Basket and others have had to abandon distribution today when their employees were prevented from coming to work, roughed up and blocked from doing their work or distribution vehicles were prevented from plying.  Appeals to various authorities have not met with success so far. 
     
    The cities that have been especially affected by such poor implementation and lack of understanding about essential services are  Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and New Delhi, say industry sources. 
     
    Milk supplies in most places have been affected from 23 March across categories. 
     
    A leading e-distributor tells us, “We have enough stocks in our warehouses and appropriate notifications from the government allowing us to operate, but we have still been forced to stop delivery of goods. The head of Mumbai operations of this retailer had even received approvals from local authorities including the Thane Police Commissioner, but “none of it seems to be working on the ground and the local police is not allowing (their) employees to move.” He says that the company gave up attempts to deliver orders until some clarity emerges and the situation stabilises,  after employees were man-handled everyday. 
     
    Interestingly, this company says, “I believe we would be one of the safest places to work from COVID-19 situation perspective since our locations are following the best hygiene practices and we also have options like contactless delivery”.  
     
    There is also a worry that if delivery stops, then it is bound to affect production in a couple of weeks and unless the government thinks about this quickly and works on a plan it could lead to public anger and further chaos. 
     
    Entrack, in an article quotes Anand Goel, CEO of Milkbaskt saying, “Local authorities do not listen to vendors, don’t understand where they are going. On Hero Honda chowk (Gurugram), our 10 vehicles carrying milk were stopped on Monday. The authorities did not let them go. Hyderabad was completely locked down where we faced a 100% loss. While Bangalore and Gurugram were at 20% loss, Noida faced 10% loss” said Anant Goel, CEO, Milkbasket.
     
    Similarly, while capital markets remain open, employees of market intermediaries and even media companies have been harasses or man-handled despite showing idenitty cards and carrying notifications of the government order. 
     
    The gap of communication between governing bodies and law enforcers on the ground is hampering access to essential services and also making it difficult for non-profit organisations to assist people in dire need. 
     
    As journalist Sridhar V, from Frontline Magazine tweeted, “It is quickly becoming clear that the India’s #lockdown is quickly degenerating into utter lawlessness by law enforcers and vigilante groups. The information blackout of what is happening could take an ominous turn as desperate citizens fighting for their lives take bigger risks.” 
     
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    Senior Citizens, Protect Yourself by Practising Financial Isolation
    Senior citizens of the country are in for a serious long term haul.  They are the most venerable category to be effected by corona virus.  On the one hand they are stuck up at home and are totally at the mercy of the family members, with absolutely no freedom. Secondly, they are emotionally burdened with the tragedy of perceived financial loss. 
     
    But senior citizens in our country bid fair to survive this colossal threat as the age old traditions followed by them all these years is their greatest shield. Washing of hands and feet on coming home from outside, simple living, avoiding outside food, practicing yoga, meditation, spiritual prayers , never to fail morning and evening walks, quality chats with other fellow seniors in the evenings and the sideways glances at their spouses are the greatest assets that will help them to tide over these testing times. 
     
    However, the biggest threat they face at present is the constant worry and mental stress about their deteriorating financial investments and failure of banks where they have invested their lifelong savings.  Senior citizens who have their savings in post offices and fixed deposits of PSU banks may have some comfort but all those who have invested their hard earned savings in bonds, mutual funds and equity market are the ones who will be hit very hard. 
     
    They will see the following effects:
     
    1. Continuous flashes in television channels and social media posts about the fall in equity markets.
     
    2. Gossip about stock markets / MFs / and even global economy from people who don’t know the difference between IPO and NPO.
     
    3. Fund managers and news anchors parroting what they want to you to believe.
     
    4. Your investment advisor or RMs will not respond to your calls or messages. 
     
    5. You will hear statements like never withdraw in a falling markets, the recovery will also be steep like a V, not the right time to discontinue SIPs, stay calm etc. etc.
    Honestly it’s very difficult to understand all this mumbo jumbo and make sense of it. But let’s understand the situation dispassionately and take some informed decisions. 
     
    1. The Covid-19 is a medical emergency. It is still spreading across the globe. As of date there is no drug or vaccine to cure the illness. Different countries are trying various methods to stop the spread - social isolation being one of them. No one has any idea about this virus as experts are still researching on it. 
     
    2. Historically all medical epidemics have lasted for over 11/2 to 2 years before humans could manage to get control over it. This has been well researched and documented. The virus has to be contained first, cure/vaccine found, tested, manufactured and then distributed. Now all this takes time and is not actionable within a very short time period. Yes, we are in for a long haul.
     
    3. The government is making all efforts to stop its spread. But in a country like India it’s easier said than done. Ill-advised and ill-informed citizens, coupled with the “don’t care” attitude of certain people are neutralising all the efforts of the government. 
     
    4. Social distancing and lockdown is hurting the economy. The exact effect cannot be measured as of now. Previously the cost of a one day bandh in Maharashtra was estimated to be Rs7 billion. (BS dated: 4 Jan 2018). Now this is a global lockdown. The cost is going to be gigantic. Economies are going to collapse, some countries will be devastated.
     
    5. India is a growing economy with a decent reserve capital, reputation, intelligent workforce and very good leadership at the helm of the state. There will be a definite turnaround, slowly but surely. This time the country will possibly lead the world in recovery.
    Having understood all this the senior citizens are advised take the following steps:
     
    1. Keep yourself sanitized from all rumors and messages by verifying the same from the websites of governments and regulators like RBI, SEBI, IRDA. All government websites have the extension .gov.in 
     
    2. Stop watching debates on TVs. Research has shown that after Tom & Jerry, News debates are the most violent shows on television. Honestly the good old Doordarshan is a clean, unbiased channel for
    authentic news. 
     
    3. Subscribe to Star Gold and Zee classics channel. They air good classic movies. Watch them during your periods of social isolation. In case you love English movies then Turner TV is a good option.
     
    4. It’s an excellent opportunity to bond with the family. Show the present generation your skills in carom and bridge. Tell them about your college days and your pigtailed girlfriends / bellbottom boyfriends. This will keep them entertained and away from the electronic gadgets. 
     
    5. In case you have a karaoke system at home, use it extensively.  There are many apps too. Sing, hear, hum, record your favorite Kishor or Rafi hits on Smule and share with others. Stay connected with your old friends on telephone and WhatsApp continuously but just to chat and not for talking about finance and the economy.
     
    6. In case you love reading, subscribe to Kindle and Magztar to get access to excellent books and magazines.  
     
    7. Don’t forget your walks. Walk within your home. Step on every tile in your house and the common space on your floor at least five times a day. 
     
    8. Just follow your passion to do whatever you love to do. It’s great fun being inside the house and do remember to take your medicines as per schedule.
    As regards to investments, just stay away from financial markets. Maintain total financial isolation like social isolation.  Either way you cannot do anything about the situation. Discussion about it with anyone including your investment advisor, the financial pundits and the so called experts will only add to your emotional misery.  Honestly they also cannot foresee anything in future and will just give the usual ’wait-n-watch’ response. Withdrawal of the investments in present times and thereby incurring losses is a bad idea.  Remember, financial investments are not like a loss due to fire or any other natural calamity where you have to pull together your belongings to save them from fire or rain to avoid getting it completely destroyed forever.  Hopefully some time in future these investments will recover and will give back your principal and a decent interest. 
     
    Finally stay away from news about finance and investments, stay safe and healthy. Remember, all your wealth is useful only if you stay alive, so better stay alive taking all the precautions as prescribed by the doctors and elders. We will revisit this topic three months down the line. 
     
    (Dr. Sampath Iyer (PhD) is a retired senior vice president from a large private sector bank with over 30 years’ experience in public as well as private sector banks. He has a doctorate in banking and besides writing, is a visiting faculty in various business schools/ corporates in and around Pune. He can be contacted on [email protected])

     

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    COMMENTS

    yespipataskar

    1 week ago

    Good & informative Article. Investments of senior citizens in any Bank are always at risk.No one can predict which bank is going to be bankrupt. At the most, they can prefer Nationalized Banks. But some senior citizens luring for more interest rates are falling prey in the trap of Renowned Old private Banks. What is advise for such persons?

    colsharmahc

    1 week ago

    Very simple and to the point article, appreciate for your honest advice. Thanks.

    m.prabhu.shankar

    1 week ago

    Very nice article. Thanks Sir.

    suketu

    2 weeks ago

    Great thoughts.Super stuff.Must read for every senior citizen.

    dpurkayastha

    2 weeks ago

    Can you please tell me how to watch Turner TV? It’s not available on the common DTH platforms eg. Tatasky, Dish etc.

    homaielavia

    2 weeks ago

    Sensible and very reassuring article.

    Ramesh Popat

    2 weeks ago

    Very good one!

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