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NEWS of Columbia Pacific Communities

Keeping a check on Mental Health: Leaders’ side of the story

Piali Dasgupta, Senior Vice President - Marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities

In the last 19 months, many companies in India have introduced mental health benefit schemes and working professionals feel more supported than ever before.   70 percent of professionals in India said their employer supported their mental well-being compared to 65 percent globally, as per the latest ADP report, ‘People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View’.   However, the stress caused by the pandemic has still been a significant challenge for professionals in India. Especially for leaders, as they face stress to ensure business continuity, manage their emotions as well as teams, and ensure workplace safety.   But often we have skipped talking about how and what leaders have been doing to address this. Leading by example, how are leaders taking care of their own mental health?   Leaders don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have everything figured out. They deal with different kinds of stress on a daily basis. Yet they are expected to always be calm and sorted. Let’s break this stigma.   Helping us break the glass ceiling of misconceptions around mental health, some of the business and HR leaders shared with us how they cope with stress and take care of their mental health:   Remember, you are not alone!: Balajee Sowrirajan, MD, Samsung Semiconductor India R&D Center (SSIR) “I feel looking at every challenge as an opportunity and not as a stress point, makes the difference. To stay positive in challenging situations, I look back at situations that I tided over successfully. Though our job as leaders is like a sponge, to absorb the pressure but not to pass it down to the next level. However, I have learnt that leaders should normalise leaning on their people and acknowledge the power of the team to solve problems. Remember, you are not alone! It’s also important for leaders to realise that they are vulnerable, you are not a superhuman. it’s okay to make mistakes and accepting that makes you human. Being real removes a lot of stress!”   Set healthy boundaries at work: Piali Dasgupta, Senior Vice President – Marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities “I have lived with chronic depression and anxiety for the past 23 years. Dealing with illnesses has become a way of life. However, even after over two decades of fighting this disease, I don’t think it gets easier to live with it. What does happen is that you learn to identify trigger points at work, and at home, and try to protect yourself from these trigger points. Work stress is inevitable for any leader because with added responsibilities come added stress. That’s not something one can run away from unfortunately. But what is of utmost importance is to set healthy boundaries at work, and try to stay away from situations that can be potential triggers or stressors. Obviously, this is much easier said than done. But leaders need to look after themselves first in order to look after their businesses and verticals well.   Share your vulnerabilities with your peers & team members: Jai Balan, Head – Human Resources, Bharti AXA Life Insurance “With added responsibilities and work pressure as a leader, bottling up emotions and anxieties under the misplaced notion that a leader needs to always appear strong and resilient just multiplies stress. Therefore, for a leader, it is important to exhibit and share your vulnerabilities with your peers and team members to create a safe space for them to know that it’s okay to feel stressed or anxious about work. Further, to manage workplace stress and anxiety, it is important to compartmentalize your thinking so that work-related matters do not stress you during your time-off.”   Yoga & prioritising family time keeps mental health in check: Sarada Vempati, SVP & Head of Technology Infrastructure, Wells Fargo India & Philippines “I was in my first week on the job at Wells Fargo. My daughter was away studying in the U.S., adding to my personal anxieties. As part of the leadership team at the bank, we were pretty much on 24×7. Balancing that with personal stressors pushed all our coping resources to the limit, including mine. How did I cope? I chose something I could do together with my daughter thousands of miles away – we both joined a yoga class! It was early in the morning for me and late evening for her. We felt closer and also connected doing it together, while relaxing and also keeping our mental balance during a very stressful time.”   Breaks, binging on Netflix & gratitude keeps stress away: Anupam Trehan, Senior Director, People & Communities, Cisco India & SAARC “As a leader and a mother, I have to focus on keeping myself strong-mentally and emotionally, to be able to support the well-being of our employees and our community networks while also managing home. A few things that I try to do to help me cope is – blocking time on my calendar for breaks. I may not always be successful, but I have realized that when you can manage your calendar, you can get more done, feel less overwhelmed, and be more relaxed. Secondly, I consciously step away from work for a few hours to spend time with family. Thirdly, I keep 30 minutes to get some exercise, read a book, or to do any activity that acts as a de-stressor. Sometimes that may just be binging on Netflix. Lastly, two things that get me through when I am stressed or upset are square breathing and gratitude. Gratitude to be surrounded by amazing people at work & home who are there with me, behind me to lift me up.”   Having a mentor for guidance is enabling: Suma PN, Director HR, Otis India “Early in my career, I realized that taking care of ‘self’ is important for me, if I have to take good care of people around me, including the teams that I lead and the people I am responsible for. Staying physically active and paying attention to my dietary habits has helped me enormously over the years.  Practicing Yoga keeps me focused and improves my concentration. Having a mentor for guidance enables me to share and learn from the experiences of the person I trust in and who has confidence in my abilities as an individual and as a leader.  Looking at the bigger picture and the wonders of this beautiful life always keeps me grounded, with a positive outlook.”   Have some me-time: Mubarak Begum, HR Head of Kristal.AI “As an HR professional handling a workforce spanning multiple countries, the challenges are manifold. Add to that the pandemic, and most days I feel there aren’t enough hours in the workday. I’ve learnt that having some me-time is crucial for your mental health. I begin my day with meditation and go for a run on alternate days. On weekends, I enjoy quality time with family or just go for a drive. I also take time out to read. On weekly calls with my team, we’ve started taking some time to talk about anything but work. This helps keep things light.”   Unwind holistically for better mental health: Nimisha Das, Director – HR, Kellogg South Asia “My personal mantra is to ensure I unwind holistically, so it invariably includes activities that help me de-stress physically, mentally, and socially. I love spending quality time with my loved ones and my cat, Tango. I practice yoga as it caters to my internal as well as external well-being. Whenever I get time off from work, I travel away from the city because I truly believe travelling teaches one a lot.”   Nothing is more important than ‘you’ and ‘your mental wellness’: Rajesh Rai, VP – People Team and Head of HR, India, GlobalLogic “In every individual’s life, one would find themselves grappling with stressful times, and such experiences can be overwhelming. In the present times, stress is something we all have to manage by taking approaches that are personalized to us. In stressful situations, I manage stress by disassociating myself from the triggers and seeking  things that I love doing to bring more positivity for myself in that very moment. These could be immersing myself in meditation, listening to music, spending quality time with loved ones, going for a run, or sometimes even simply indulging myself with a sweet treat. This little time of self-care enables me to process my thoughts and realign myself to tackle the stress head-on.   Don’t stress the could haves: Ruhie Pande, CHRO, Godrej Housing Finance “I read this at the tube station during my travels and it stayed with me – ‘Don’t stress the could haves , if it should have, it would have’ ! I truly believe stress is often an outcome of trying to control things and my focus is to embrace the process and give things my 100% without trying to influence outcomes. Pursuing a hobby helps as well. I have an active interest in volunteering for animals, reading & writing and I ensure to take time out to invest in them.“   Work is not a sprint but a marathon: Ramya Sampath Sharma, Chief People Officer, GreyOrange “The fact remains that for all the excitement of the VUCA world, the relentless nature of our lives today [work and personal] has a massive impact on our mental health. As leaders, it is critical that we balance the demands of our work and organization with the need to be empathetic to employees. This requires the ability to understand that work is not a sprint but a marathon. This is my own mantra and the secret to my ability to keep going in this  fast paced work.”   Pay close attention towards your own mental well-being: Sushant Patnaik, Head-HR, Aeris Communications “Last 18 months has literally condensed decades of learning in a few months. Adapting to a new normal, shifting from brick and mortar to online grocery shopping, online education and healthcare and so on. It is normal to end up in a condition of tight strain, with life slowing to a standstill at times, stuck between the four dividers of your room and the sorry state of affairs around. As a wellness trainer myself, I am acutely aware of this stress that many of us feel. Also, as the bridge between the business and employees, I keep reminding myself continuously that I have a greater responsibility to undertake. Therefore, I pay close attention towards my own mental well-being and also encourage my colleagues and loved ones to do the same. These have been testing times, requiring each one of us to be calm and empathetic towards others. Every leader has to wear numerous hats, and in my case, I have to ensure employees’ stability and help them through grievances. That is only possible if I take good care of my personal well-being.”

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Leading conversations around mental health

Piali Dasgupta, Senior Vice President - Marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities

A quick disclaimer. I am not a medical professional, a psychiatrist or a psychologist. But as someone who has lived with clinical anxiety and depression for over 23 years, here are my thoughts on how brands can lead the conversation around mental health.   According to WHO (World Health Organisation), 7.5% of India’s population is mentally ill, and the number will reach 20% by the time the pandemic ends. It is being said that mental illness will be the next pandemic.   But, given its non-communicable nature and the fact that it’s an invisible disease, despite the swelling numbers, mental illness is still not perceived as a “real illness” by a vast number of people in our country. And that’s where the problem worsens.   Brands have an important role to play here and to dispel the notion that mental illness is in “someone’s head.” Many Indians have a tendency of living in denial as far as mental illness is concerned, mainly because it’s invisible and also because it’s mired in stigma.   Both healthcare brands and non- healthcare brands in the “wellness space” can drive this agenda steadfastly in order to change public perceptions on the illness.   The #HealthInsideOut campaign launched in January this year by Insurance giant Future Generali, which showcased the tell-tale signs of mental illnesses through a video series animating inanimate objects such as a vase, a pillow, depicted the various physical manifestations of this ‘invisible disease’.   Draw attention to the mental illness crisis in India It is no secret that India is in the midst of a mental illness crisis. Researchers from NIMHANS have shared that per lakh individuals, there are only 0.75 psychiatrists in India as of 2019. India needs 2700 new psychiatrists every year. In rural areas, there is virtually no mental health support, leaving lakhs of people undiagnosed.   Psychiatrists are overburdened by the number of patients they have to see every day, providing very little time and attention to each patient. The problem is looming large but we are not talking about this enough.   This is an opportunity for brands to shed light on the current situation and catalyse conversations and action by the Health Ministry to address the predicament.   Drive the narrative that overall wellbeing is unattainable without mental wellbeing The Government of India launched the Fit India initiative on August 29, 2019. And while that’s a great initiative, it lacks focus on mental health. The truth is, physical fitness is incomplete without mental wellbeing and the two are deeply connected. Unfortunately, our attention and efforts are always skewed heavily towards physical fitness, neglecting mental health almost entirely.   This is where brands and advertisers have a game-changing role to play. To establish and propel the narrative that mental wellbeing is as important as physical fitness and merits equal attention.   With cutting edge creativity and continuous, effective storytelling, this message can be driven to the furthest corners of the country by brands who would need to own this narrative.   Shatter the shame, stigma and misinformation on mental illness Advertising has often been a vehicle of change. It can play a crucial role in changing the conversation around mental health, encouraging more people to speak up about their mental health challenges, which in turn will give other “closeted mentally ill” people the courage to share their stories.   A few campaigns done on mental health in the recent years have ignited a meaningful dialogue on the same.   Ogilvy’s print ad for The Hindu, on World Mental Health Day (October 10) last year on “a smile” and what it actually means when someone with mental illness “smiles” was thought provoking.   Prega News’ 2018 campaign demonstrating the struggles of a new mother at the workplaceraised awareness on an oft-neglected kind of mental illness – post partum depression.   One can never forget the powerful “Dobara Poocho” campaign done by Deepika Padukone’s Live Love Laugh Foundation four years ago, which underlined the importance of that little extra effort that is needed to find out if someone is doing fine, mentally.   The Foundation followed it up with another compelling campaign called #NotAshamed featuring real life mental illness survivors who were bold enough to share their stories of struggle and pain.   The #NotAshamed campaign was not just digitally activated, but also taken to the masses through OOH in the form of large billboards in prominent parts of the city with faces of mental illness survivors saying they are not ashamed.   The campaign did a phenomenal job in normalising conversations around mental illness and reducing the shame and stigma that people suffering from these illnesses have to battle with every day, at home and outside it.   In May this year, Columbia Pacific Communities launched a campaign titled #ReachOut done in association with the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Hospital, which reached over 6.5 lakh people. It urged senior citizens feeling overwhelmed, distressed, worried, listless and isolated during the second wave of the pandemic, to reach out for free mental health support without any hesitation or shame.   It is time for more and more brands to do their bit to freed mentally ill people from judgement, shame, apathy and stigma that is so unique to this illness.   Crafting conscientious communication While there have been some great work on the discourse of mental health by brands in the past few years, there have been a few misses as well. The recent Netmeds ad featuring actors Karisma and Kareena Kapoor being one. The film not only trivialised a serious, life altering disease such as anxiety but also used a judgemental, condescending tonality, drawing criticism from all corners.   Mental health and mental illnesses are already hugely misunderstood and misrepresented. Incorrect, misinformed narratives don’t help matters. Using terms such as “depressed” or “anxious” loosely and interchangeably has far reaching impactand dilutes the suffering of millions of people living with one or more forms of life alternating mental diseases.   Marketers need to engage in rigorous research and seek the help of specialists when crafting communication around mental health because an incorrect narrative can do more damage to the discourse and result in more confusion and lack of clarity among the masses.

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India along with the developing world working to boost basic mental health infrastructure

India along with the low-and middle-income countries are now working to enhance the access to mental healthcare across the globe, especially in the low-and middle-income countries. The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a greater degree of mental health issues in India by exacerbating economic problems and creating uncertainty.   The big issue confronting India is that for a million population, there are only 3 psychiatrists, and even fewer psychologists. Added to this is a global pandemic and the impact that it has had on the mental health of individuals across all age groups and social strata. It is not hard to understand how we are facing a storm that seems almost too difficult to navigate, said Dr Sapna Bangar, psychiatrist and head, Mpower – The Centre, Mumbai.   Experts from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences concurred that people need to accept that anxiety and depression need medical attention. It could be seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that is related to changes in seasons and begins and ends at about the same time among other phases of melancholy.   On the occasion of the World Mental Health Day observed annually on October 10, this year’s theme ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’, calls out the unavailability of basic mental health services across the globe.   From India standpoint, efforts are on to set up mental health services where patients can connect offline or even virtual. “We need to counteract this situation. The public and private sectors providing mental healthcare need to team up to provide the right care to as many people as possible. There is need to raise awareness and reduce mental health stigma which is the main reason that people needing help and support do not come forward to seek it,” Dr Bangar added.   WHO estimates, mental illness accounts for about 15% of the total disease conditions around the world and that India has one of the most sizable populations affected by mental disorders. Consequently, WHO has branded India as the world’s ‘most depressing country.’   All schools and colleges need to adopt a mental health curriculum to improve resilience. Corporates need to invest in the mental health of their employees by providing regular counselling sessions as an integral part of employee benefits, introducing mental health leave and appointing mental health advocates within the organization. We also need to impart skills to the general population as well as primary health workers to identify and sensitively care for the people suffering from mental health issues in the right direction, said Dr Bangar.   According to Niraj Singh, founder & CEO – Spinny, every organisation should place an impetus on mental well-being and rectifying mental health-related issues. The pandemic has been devastating for the world’s collective mental state of mind and it needs to be a collective responsibility for us to look out for each other.   According to Dr Karthiyayini Mahadevan, head, wellness and wellbeing at Columbia Pacific Communities, man is the architect of society and individual mental health plays a vital role in bringing about overall social well-being.   “Nutrition feeds the mind, breath anchors the mind and activities engage the mind,” he said.   Let us have a well-balanced, nutritious diet through locally grown organic produce prepared traditionally; let us breathe properly by regulating our breath through healthy breathing practices and take care of the atmosphere by being sensitive and responsible towards environmental pollution; and let us engage in creative activities to enliven the mind, stay in good mental health and contribute towards a healthier society, Dr Mahadevan further said.

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The age of high EQ ads

Piali Dasgupta, Senior Vice President - Marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities

Advertising has a huge role to play in crafting progressive narratives around gender and take the dialogue on feminism forward. And that’s because advertising is a large part of what we consider as popular culture. And therefore, it must mimic society and needs to depict the changing role of women in society.   From time to time, various popular consumer brands have been able to do this very well. A great example is a brand like Tanishq. With its “khud se naya rishta” proposition empowering women to prioritise themselves over anything or anyone else in their lives or their memorable wedding film in 2013 that showed a woman with a child remarrying, the brand has had a very important role to play in changing narratives around women.   Brands today explore various facets of gender inequality to craft nuanced narratives. In the past decade, advertisement has facilitated conversations around mansplaining to pay gap and from body positivity to breaking the taboo around talking about same-sex relationships. Back in 2018, handbag brand Baggit tacked mansplaining with their ad featuring Shraddha Kapoor, beautifully incorporating the product. And Myntra’s ethnic private label Anouk talked about a same-sex relationship in their 2016 ad. Durex’s #cometogether campaign talked about orgasm inequality among men and women, bringing to focus a topic that is often brushed under the carpet in our country.   So, I think dialogues around gender equality are no longer at a surface level today in Indian advertising. They are definitely getting deeper and exploring complexities within the gender discourse. And that’s a very positive sign.   When you create a piece of communication that is high on EQ, is future-facing and propagates the idea of an egalitarian world, everyone wins. And I don’t really mean awards here.   It’s no secret that everybody loves a good story. And a good story is often one with a happy ending. Like the Cadbury ad. Whether you look at the original Cadbury ad made by Piyush Pandey in 1993 or the one by the same agency after 28 years, one of the things that is common in the two versions is that they have great repeat value. You want to see them again and again, and it doesn’t get old. And that’s the beauty of a classic. Whether it’s a film like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or a Cadbury ad.  And the reason you want to see them, again and again, is because of the happy ending, because it makes you smile wide and fills your heart with abundant joy every time you watch it. It instantly puts you in a good mood. And that’s really the power of creativity.   A brand that is able to evoke such robust positive emotions with its communication, will enjoy high recall and very high consideration amongst its target audience, not to forget, strengthen its positioning. In the case of Cadbury, it has always stood for celebrations and the good times with its “kuch meetha ho jaye” proposition. And an ad such as that only reinforces the idea of “celebrating” everything good and precious in life with a bar of Cadbury. It equates “Cadbury” with “celebrations,” thereby building very high brand association, which is one of the building blocks of brand equity.   Cadbury has also been able to catalyse important conversations and bring in positive change in society while strengthening its brand proposition. It has always stood for doing the right things – whether it is batting for small business owners for Diwali last year or stepping forward to do something really meaningful for hundreds of children with congenital limb defects through their Rakhi campaign in August. And this time too, it showed the world, that it’s time for a different narrative. Where the woman bats and the man cheers on. And that’s the narrative the consumer of 2021 is eager to see.   There are many brands that have been able to craft effective communication that is both uplifting and also propels a narrative change. Dove’s Real Beauty campaign has been running successfully globally for over a decade now, and Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad campaign has cracked the code of using powerful emotions and storytelling to create something that brings in a paradigm shift.   The idea of refreshing iconic ads with current context is great, provided done well. The 90s were the golden era of Indian advertisement. That decade gave us some of the most iconic ads that became such an integral part of Indian pop culture. Whether it was Dhara featuring a young Parzan Dastur, or Humara Bajaj, the Liril ads, The Dil Maangey More ads by Pepsi featuring Bollywood stars including Shah Rukh Khan or the Titan and Cadbury ads – the sort of recall value these ads have enjoyed is not something ads today enjoy. And that’s what makes them immortal.   Nostalgia is a very powerful tool. It instantly brings people together and takes you to a happy place. It’s a very crucial communication and storytelling tool, and brands have used nostalgia successfully (for example, Paperboat) to create a strong, emotional bond with their consumers and make a real mark in the consumer psyche. And the beauty of nostalgia is that it can be used in any manner and form, and not necessarily by repurposing an old, iconic ad.

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Emerging Demand Of Senior Living Segment In India

Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities at an event

On the occasion of International Seniors Day Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities briefs Realty+ on emerging senior living communities and the lifestyle they offer.   A CII report on senior living estimated the need for such homes at 200,000 in 2018.  At that time there were 20,000 homes in various stages of development.  Given the long gestation period of real estate projects and the fact that India is adding over 4 million seniors to its population every year, this 10x gap would only have increased in the last three years and will continue to increase in the foreseeable future.   Demand for homes in communities designed with seniors in mind is higher than it has ever been.  More tellingly, the average age of the customer has reduced dramatically with more and younger people looking at the quality of life, safety and security and healthcare support on offer at these communities as desirable attributes that must be available in the homes they live in.   During the past 24 months, the experience of seniors living on their own has been in stark contrast to their contemporaries who were residing in senior living communities. As a direct consequence, there are waiting lists for projects with ready to move in homes and a 4x increase in demand for homes in newly launched communities.   While entrepreneurs are looking for ease of doing business, seniors and their children are seeking “ease of living”.  Well designed and well managed senior living communities ensure that their residents are relieved from the mundane but real worries of doing their day to day chores and completing their activities of daily living.  Instead, the services on offer, the wellness and wellbeing programmes, the availability of opportunity and space to meet and interact in small and large groups make senior living communities a preferred option for people in the age of 50 and beyond.   Furthermore, professionally managed senior living communities are able to offer customised and responsive healthcare services that allow residents to age in place.  As one’s needs change over time, the on-site healthcare services can be supplemented and augmented to cater to individual needs.  This allows residents the required peace of mind and companionship that is the essence of community living, where your friends are your neighbours, your neighbours are your friends and they are all a corridor walk or an elevator ride away.

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Need for holistic living solutions for seniors in India

Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities at an event

Communities designed with seniors in mind are increasingly becoming a mainstream subject of discussion. In the last 18 months, the country has become more aware of the distinct advantages that residents of senior living communities have over seniors living on their own or as a part of mixed family condominiums.   Positive Ageing, the brand promise of Columbia Pacific Communities, has come to symbolise the approach that this demographic is taking to life. Age is just a number to them, as they use this phase of their life to be the best of themselves – whether it is in pursuit of hobbies and passions that they always wanted or it is to give back to society by leveraging their expertise and talent.   A holistic wellness and wellbeing programme at senior living communities ensures that residents stay healthier for longer. The notion that one will be less fit at 75 than one is at 65 years of age is a fallacy.   What determines whether this is the case or not depends on what one does in the intervening 10-year period.   One’s overall health is a unique combination of physical fitness, mental alertness, and intellectual agility. The single common facilitator and enabler of these is social interaction. Hence, in a well-managed senior living community, the service provider should have design and deliver a programme that enables its residents the best chance to be healthier for longer.   Physical health is a combination of strength, stamina, balance and flexibility. On-property physiotherapists can, through group sessions work with the larger population and in sessions customised to the individual’s needs, ensure continuous and sustained improvement on these parameters.   Group sessions encourage social interaction, peer competition and engenders higher levels of participation, attendance and consequent improvement. As residents see, sense and demonstrate this improvement, they become ambassadors of the cause encouraging participation from their previously reluctant neighbours and friends.   Good mental health is predicated on our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It has a direct bearing on how we think, feel, and act. This in turn, impacts how we interact in a social environment, handle stress and the manner in which we seek or not seek help.   Well-designed senior living communities ensure there are enough and varied public areas that encourage and provide the space for group interactions for small to large groups of people.   Whether it is a game of bridge or rummy, a sudoku competition or a tambola evening – social occasions that encourage interaction are a great safeguard against loneliness and worry.   Equally, India being a land of festivals, community celebrations bring residents together and ensure spiritual wellbeing and a sense of elation and jointly celebrated happiness.   With increasing life expectancy, just having a longer life is not enough. It is now even more important that one is careful and conscious of the need to be healthy in order to enjoy the longer life span. It is this need that senior living communities and its residents can fulfil by adopting the philosophy of Positive Ageing and a holistic lifestyle for all round physical and mental wellbeing.

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World Heart Day – Seven exercises to keep your heart healthy and young

It is very important to keep one’s heart-healthy whereby the circulation of blood to every organ is maintained well and the organ reserves are utilised at the time of need.   Things to consider before starting cardiac endurance exercises:   1. If one has any risk factors such as a family history of cardiac disease, smoking, obesity or high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes, then before starting an exercise program it is advised to consult a physician so that the right kind of exercises can be chosen for safety and health benefits.   2. These exercises are targeted towards keeping the heart rate up to 80% of the maximum heart rate (beats per minute) which is one’s age subtracted from 220.   Here are seven basic exercises for a healthy heart   1. Walking: One needs to set a pace by which one can get the best cardiac benefits out of walking. After walking at a moderate pace with comfortable strides over a fixed time and distance, one needs to check the pulse rate which is an indicator of the heart rate. If it is more than 80% of the maximum heart rate, then one needs to reduce the number of steps for the same distance with added time, and if the heart rate is less than 80% of the maximum heart rate then increase the number of steps for the same distance within lesser time. Even though it is easy nowadays to check these through gadgets such as a Fitbit, it is fun to know your body yourself.   2. Intermittent jogging: This is for those who are already into regular walking. To introduce short jogging in between walking is like bringing short bursts of workouts in between the regular intensity of walking. Each time jogging should be followed by three times walking time.   3. Jogging: This is for those who are already into basic workouts and intermittent jogging. They can graduate to jogging by keeping distance and time as indicators to reach 80% of maximum heart rate.   4. Walking with the pace of breathing: This is for beginners who have not been exercising regularly. With one’s normal range of breath, count the number of steps taken on one inhalation and steps walked with one exhalation. Continue with the same pace in sync with the breath.   5. Swimming: This too should be in sync with breathing which will help the individual get the maximum benefits. Inhalation and exhalation must be of the same duration of exhalation can be longer. Arm strokes are the counts with each phase of the breath.   6. Yoga: Daily practice of Surya Namaskar, which has both inhalation and exhalation based postures alternately, brings in optimum benefit in circulation. Also, yoga balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems and benefits the heart.   7. Tai-Chi: Mindful movement with repetitive patterns calms one’s mind and benefits the heart by reducing stress.

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Creating a holistic environment and support system to enable seniors optimize opportunities

Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities at an event

Senior citizens in India are facing a unique situation that can best be described as a Hobson’s choice. On the one hand, greater awareness of physical and mental health, a nutritious diet, access to health care is leading to an increase in the life expectancy of Indians while on the other hand, the years added on to one’s life are during a period when income has become static and expenses on account of health care are at their highest.   Healthcare inflation for the past many years has been trending at double the rate of the average retail inflation. Given bank deposit interest rates barely cover for real inflation, one is not sure whether to rejoice or lament the longer lifespan.   It is for this reason that all of us and especially senior citizens need to adopt a lifestyle that keeps them healthier and fitter for longer. Thanks to increased scientific knowledge and professionally designed wellness and wellbeing programmes being followed in senior living communities, it is no longer an unrealistic aspiration to be fitter at 80 than one was at 70 years of age.   The pandemic, which forced us all into physical separation has only worked to highlight the advantages to residents of a professionally managed senior living community.   The CII report of 2018 estimated a demand of over 200,000 homes against which there were a mere 20,000 homes under various stages of development. Given the long gestation period (36 – 48 months) of new projects and the fact that India adds almost 4 million senior citizens to its population every year, the supply demand gap is only going to increase in the short to medium term.   The government needs to encourage and incentivise the insurance, banking, healthcare and real estate sectors to address the real needs of our senior citizens.   Bank interest rates that are pegged to the consumer price index are wholly inadequate to provide the cover required by senior citizens. This is especially true because income tax, indirect taxation and healthcare inflation conspire to make the individual poorer with every passing year.   Furthermore, senior citizens staying on their own have to depend on various individuals in the unorganised sector for their daily chores. Housekeeping, gardening, security, driver, cook and other individuals are all paid in cash while no additional taxes are borne by the payee.   When the same individual moves into a senior living community, all these service personnel become a part of the organised sector and benefit from social safety nets such as Provident Fund, Employee State Insurance etc. While this is to the benefit of the employee, the resident has to pay 18% Goods and Services Tax which increases the outflow for them.   Insurance schemes need to be designed to address the co-morbidities and pre-existing conditions that are naturally present with advancing years. The banking sector needs to develop a robust reverse mortgage scheme that allows seniors to take advantage of the asset that they have created during their lifetime.   In essence, we need to recognise that a demographic that will soon be a fifth of the population needs and deserves an ecosystem that is designed to look after their every need. This is the least that we can do for a cohort that has spent their entire life in fulfilling their responsibilities – to their children, their parents, to society and the nation.  

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Senior living communities key to boosting Indian economy

Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities at an event

India has a predominantly young population. However, the number of senior citizens in the country is increasing steadily, resulting in rising demand for dedicated senior housing communities. Apart from this, this demographic is expected to be vital for India’s overall economic growth.   The narrative of a ‘Young India’ driven by the demographic dividend – its youthful population, actually camouflages a sociological change of seismic proportions. While we speak of a ‘Young India’, we lose sight of the fact that we are also a country ageing at a pace that will result in a fifth of its population being over 65 years of age by 2050. India is adding over four million people a year to the senior citizen category, representing a growth of three percent per annum.   A Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) report released in 2018 estimated an existing demand of two lakh homes in urban India for seniors. At that point in time, there were approximately 20,000 homes in various stages of development. Given the rate at which the senior population grows and the long gestation period of real estate projects, this significant gap between supply and demand would only have increased.   We believe that every Tier 1 and Tier 2 city in the country should have at least 2-3 projects on offer to senior citizens at any point in time. However, this gap between supply and demand will not be narrowed in the short to medium term.   Globalisation has given the younger generation access to high-quality education and the opportunity to pursue their careers across the country and overseas. This phenomenon has resulted in parents and children living independently and in different cities and even countries. Communities designed with seniors in mind are increasingly becoming the preferred option for seniors living on their own. Having all their requirements of daily living catered to by one service provider removes the headaches associated with daily chores. At the same time, the presence of in-community paramedical support for day-to-day medical assistance and emergencies brings peace of mind to both parents and children.   The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to enhance the desirability of senior living communities. The desperation experienced by seniors living alone in their homes or neighbourhoods with mixed families has stood in stark contrast with residents of senior living communities. Consistently adapted protocols and on-property service personnel have ensured that residents of senior living communities have been safely ring-fenced from the external environment. Furthermore, carefully designed engagement programmes and activities have resulted in physical distancing not being an impediment to social interaction, thereby keeping loneliness and despair at bay.   As we see around us, middle-aged parents in today’s times embrace life and covet a lifestyle very different from their parents. This demographic will soon be a part of the so-called ‘silver economy’. Product creators and service providers across industry spectrums are realising that the senior demographic represents an untapped segment that has the time, aspiration, means, and will to live life to the fullest. It is both ironic but at the same time fitting that the demographic that is now being called the silver generation drove the economy forward with their hard work and passion during their youth and will again propel the economy forward in their golden years through their lifestyle.

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World Alzheimer’s Day: Awareness On Alzheimer’s Disease

What is Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause for dementia and is a growing health concern among the elderly population particularly in developing countries where the infrastructure and resources to support this disease are still in a developing stage.   The disease causes brain cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain and over time the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all its functions. This is due to the accumulation of abnormal clusters of protein fragments called plaques and tangles. These plaques and tangles block cell to cell signalling, thereby affecting the transfer of signals and vital cell transport system which deprives the cells of nutrition. Due to this being lost and losing vitality, the brain cells die.   Stages of Alzheimer’s disease Earliest changes in brain cells begin 20 years before diagnosis and is seen over the superior part of the temporal lobe which is involved in learning and memory.   Mild stage – This generally lasts between 2 to 10 years. Symptoms are seen in the affected person as trouble in handling money or paying bills, wandering and getting lost in finding a place, and taking longer time to complete daily tasks. Moderate stage – This lasts for 1 to 5 years. Damage to areas that control language, reasoning, conscious thought and sensory processing such as ability to recognise sounds and smells. They face problems recognising family and friends. They are unable to learn new things. Severe stage – Plaques and tangles spread throughout the brain and the brain tissue shrinks. There is a change in personality and behaviour. Individuals gradually lose the faculty to care for themselves.   According to neuroscientists from Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, plaques and tangles tend to spread through the cortex in a more predicted pattern affecting memory, cognition and behaviour.   Myths about Alzheimer’s disease 1. The most common myth is that Alzheimer’s disease is different from dementia. But the fact is Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause for dementia which amounts to 50 – 60 per cent of dementia.   2. Another myth is that only people in their seventies and older get Alzheimer’s. The fact is that the disease starts 20 years before its overt clinical manifestation happens. So, Alzheimer’s grips individuals as early as in their fifties.   3. There are a lot of myths about treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. It is neither preventable nor curable. But there are some modifiable risk factors, if addressed effectively at midlife, that can keep the impact and progression of the disease under check.   4. Turmeric is considered to have therapeutic effect for Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin in turmeric serves as an anti-inflammatory agent which may help in overall reduction of inflammation due to abnormal protein accumulation. But there is no clinical data to support the decrease in cases in India where the consumption of turmeric is prevalent.   Precautions against Alzheimer’s disease Alzheimer’s disease can affect anybody. There are modifiable risk factors which when effectively addressed during midlife through lifestyle changes can lower the impact of the illness. These modifiable risk factors include smoking habits, alcoholism, sedentary lifestyle causing obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and coronary artery disease.   Eat a healthy and balanced diet which includes adequate fruits and vegetables. Avoid junk foods and high glycaemic index foods. Avoid saturated fat and exercise at least 150 minutes every week which includes moderate intensity aerobic activity. These are ways to reduce the risk and the impact of the illness. By staying mentally and physically active, we can reduce the risk and keep the disease at bay.

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