NEWS of Columbia Pacific Communities

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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Positive about Good News

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

I think, that “right” news more than “good” news is the need of the hour. At a time when so much of news has unfortunately become about ceaseless noise and drama, and the loudest voice (as opposed to the most logical voice) winning an argument, what we need are news channels that show its viewers both sides of a story, and indulges in fair, clean and agenda-less reportage. I don’t think today’s audience is unable to handle “bad news.”   We had two and a half months of continuous bad news on television screens during the second wave of the pandemic, and that did find an audience. But as citizens, we must demand from the fourth estate fair, honest and nuanced reportage presenting the truth. For, to uphold the truth and be a watchdog of society is the media’s primary responsibility.   As for a channel with “good news”, I think a channel that focuses solely on happy, uplifting, positive stories, will definitely find advertisers. A great example of that is the portal Better India, which was founded in 2016 with the single objective of bringing positive stories across the country to people.   Over time, they have been able to attract a host of A-grade brands across categories as diverse as automobile, BFSI, FMCG, Tech to advertise on their platform helping them tell stories about their brands that bring their brand purpose to the fore.   Such a news channel will certainly be a brand-positive and brand safe space. But ultimately, marketers and advertisers want to advertise on channels that reach out to their target consumer, because they need to base these decisions on ROI. So, a channel such as this will attract advertisers only if it has been able to build a robust and relevant viewership that brands would like to tap into.   It’s true that more and more brands are trying to find a purpose – a raison d’etre. Because they have realized that purpose-led brands are connecting better with today’s consumers and growing at least 2x faster than brands that are not purpose led.   As a brand whose sole purpose is to propound the concept of ‘positive ageing’ and help seniors live healthier, happier, physically fitter and mentally more agile lives for longer, we would respond very positively to a news channel that promotes the spirit of positivity and shares good news.   It’s no secret that the mental health crisis would be the next crisis that will hit the world, after COVID-19. Most of us have experienced the impact of the pandemic on our mental health. And for those that have had pre-existing mental health issues, things have only been tougher.   Positive news is proven to uplift moods and stabilise emotions. So, positive and good news is more than welcome, particularly at a time like this, and is sure to find an audience because it will be like a breath of fresh air in the controversy led shouting matches that pass off as news channels these days.   I would certainly like to place my brand in a channel that stands for all things positive, fair and just. The core philosophy of Columbia Pacific Communities is positive ageing, so we are certainly about positivity. Our residents lead a life of positivity and focus on all the great things that are happening around them. So, the content on a channel such as this is likely to find an audience with our primary target group – senior citizens.   While one is all for positivity, it’s important to perhaps mention in this content that positivity can sometimes turn toxic. No one’s life is picture perfect. Behind every positive outcome is endless struggle, blood, sweat and tears. And therefore, news stories need to focus as much on the journeys as on the destinations.   A lot of what we see on social media is already a big illusion – with people only choosing to post the best versions of their lives. So, a news channel aimed at bringing positive and good news to people should focus on being real and authentic, more than anything else. There is nothing more important than that.

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2021 May be breakthrough year for communities designed for seniors :CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities

Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities

As life expectancy increases, people are striving to live healthier lives for longer. Especially among the well-to-do, educated and retired lot, the senior living concept is gradually finding acceptance. For a long time, retirement communities or assisted living in senior living homes was considered a taboo especially because it lent an impression of being an old age home. However, there is a distinct difference. While old age homes house seniors who do not have the means to look after themselves, senior living communities are for seniors looking for smarter ways to stay at home. It’s not just about better quality of life – It’s everything from affordability to a community that often feels warmer than average.   Retirement communities provide people with an opportunity to live in a friendly environment where skilled staff are always available to assist, and oftentimes need. In addition, retirement homes offer various amenities depending on the needs of the resident. With eldercare staff and chefs available, residents can enjoy food prepared fresh daily. Some retirement communities also have medical care facilities and wellness programs for those who need rehabilitation.   With time, seniors in cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pondicherry etc are now increasingly considering senior homes. Real Estate Forum India (REFI) got in touch with Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities to understand more about senior living in India and its prospects.   REFI: How has the concept of senior-living been received in India? Mohit Nirula: The demand for and success of senior living communities is primarily on account of it being a hospitality and healthcare solution that residents need to ensure a zero-headache lifestyle and which guarantees peace of mind for them and their families spread across the world. We have found an increasing demand for this solution – both from customers and developers who wish to have a senior living community as a part of their larger product offering in integrated townships.   Columbia Pacific Communities, as India’s largest operator of communities designed for seniors, has the privilege of serving over 3,000 residents in 1,600 homes in nine communities in the five cities of Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore, Kanchipuram and Puducherry.   Our tenth project, India’s first senior living community designed to international standards is currently on sale in Bengaluru.  The financial year of 2021 – 22 will see the launch of three more projects in Pune, Chennai and Bengaluru.  In the year thereafter, we will add more projects in the cities we already operate in besides expanding to Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata.   REFI: What are the facilities for seniors and what is the starting price of such services? Mohit Nirula: The bouquet of services at a well-managed senior living community must deliver on the following three promises: 1. A zero-headache lifestyle where all your daily chores and needs are addressed by the service provider.  This liberates you from doing things that you have to do and frees you to do the things you have always wanted to do.   2.A wellness and wellbeing programme designed around the philosophy of Positive Ageing – an approach to life that encourages and enables you to be physically strong, mentally alert, and intellectually stimulated in a socially engaging community thereby keeping you healthier for longer.   3.A 24/7 para-medical team and daily doctor’s visits to ensure your current and emergent medical needs are identified early and addressed speedily thereby giving peace of mind to you and your family.  In times of need, the community stands by you.   REFI: Can legal heirs of inhabitants inherit such a property? Mohit Nirula: Like any real estate asset, the property transfers to the legal heirs.  The Service Agreement and the Asset Sale Deed are intertwined in order to protect the nature and purpose of the community.  Legal heirs may choose to sell the property or place it on rent.  At Columbia Pacific Communities, we have a dedicated team that maintains a data bank of people wishing to rent or buy in existing communities and we are happy to assist owners in this process.   REFI: What should one consider before moving into a senior living community? Mohit Nirula: Once you have assessed if the service design of the community is such that all your needs will be met by the service provider, the most important thing is to move into the community sooner rather than later.   After all, the whole purpose of moving into such a community is to be able to leave the worries of daily chores to others and be free to pursue one’s passions and interests.  If one has fulfilled one’s responsibilities towards children, parents, career, society and nation, it is only fair that you take out time and embrace a lifestyle that is focussed on you.   Also, the earlier you move in, the more friends you make and then enjoy their company forever.   REFI: What are the trends like in 2021 when it comes to senior living? Mohit Nirula: The year 2021 looks likely to be the breakthrough year for communities designed for seniors.  The experience of the past 18 months and the realisation that a community that fulfils all needs of seniors particularly in times of adversity is resulting in senior living communities to be the preferred solution for seniors and their children alike.

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Redefining the Senior Care Living Sector with Medical Innovations

Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a challenge that brought out the best of our brave frontliners as they ringfenced our senior living communities in an attempt to shield our residents from the external environment and the invisible enemy.   The adaptability they have demonstrated, the modifications in how we deliver services, the ever changing medical protocol to combat the changing threat levels of the virus and the insights that we have gleaned will inform the operations of our current communities and will also be reflected in the design of our future communities at Columbia Pacific Communities.   In fact, the first and second waves of the pandemic brought with them different and unique challenges and truly stretched the ingenuity and creativity of our teams to combat them.   The first wave of COVID -19 was marked by a distinct lack of scientific understanding of how the virus behaved, what caused it to spread, what precautions could be taken to impede the spread and how it could be best treated.  Such an atmosphere of ignorance is fertile ground for the spread of misinformation and disinformation.  In a technology enabled world where all it take to spread such news is the click of the “forward” icon on WhatsApp, our challenge was to combat the concern and chaos this caused with regular, sustained and confident communication backed by science and endorsed by our medical health partners, Columbia Asia Hospitals.   Zoom, now as ubiquitous as voice calls used to be in the days before COVID – 19, was also used by the Wellness teams to educate residents through panel discussions and Q&A sessions with eminent doctors that helped to allay the concerns that emanated from the Inbox in WhatsApp.   Another unique creation during the first wave was The Living Room by Columbia Pacific Communities. Open to all – residents and Facebook followers alike, this live video interaction brought into the living rooms of the participants, celebrities who addressed spoke about their area of expertise and also took questions from the attendees.   It is with pride that one can share that all the celebrities including luminaries such Charu Sharma, Kabir Bedi, Nandita Das, Anu Malik to name a few, gave their time voluntarily and thoroughly enthralled the participants while enjoying the interaction themselves as well.   The time between the two waves and the availability of vaccines then given us the opportunity to provide our residents, the safety that comes from being vaccinated.   Relationships nurtured over the years with neighbouring hospitals and Public Health Centres resulted in our being able to facilitate the vaccine process.  As a consequence we had almost 100% coverage for all eligible residents with the two doses of the vaccine.  All frontline team members are also being covered.   By the time of the second wave a lot of our learnings now manifested themselves in the changed protocol and service delivery.   These changes can be seen in the creation of separate and dedicated spaces for the receipt of individual resident and community deliveries. A revised protocol ensures that all deliveries are made by Columbia Pacific Communities team members and that the goods are only delivered after appropriate “holding periods” and disinfection protocols.   Guest houses at the communities are now the first place of residence for visiting relatives and friends.  It is only after a quarantine period in this facility and a subsequent negative RT-PCR test that visitors can integrate with the community.   Isolation rooms with oxygen support allow residents who show minor symptoms to quarantine themselves while remaining under the medical supervision of the community nursing team.  This not only safeguards their spouse who can continue to live in their homes but also acts as a safer environment than a hospital where one can safely recover and recuperate without being exposed to additional risk.   Morning exercises and religious celebrations are being held digitally or in controlled physically-distanced environments.  This ensures that physical distancing does not result in social isolation.   It also ensures that residents do not feel lonely, isolated and hopeless.   One of the biggest causes of lowered immunity is anxiety and a feeling of isolation.  We are currently in the midst of a month long cultural and music competition amongst residents from our nine communities located across five cities.  Held over Zoom, we have participants cheered on by thousands of neighbours and family members from all over the world as they vie for individual wins and community points – all culminating with the Champion Community being crowned on World Senior Citizens’ Day on August 21, 2021.   The regular meal menus have been supplemented with immunity boosting beverages that are served twice a week.  Furthermore, menus have been modified to include ingredients that work to boost the immunity of our residents.   Future communities will include accommodation for team members within the community.  This will ensure that residents are never wanting for daily services and medical support and that neither they, nor team members have unnecessary exposure to the external environment.   The challenges posed by COVID – 19, its ever evolving variants and the accompanying modifications to protocol may well be with us for some time to come.  Until we have herd immunity against most variants, a booster vaccine which gives us continued protection from severe symptoms and most importantly, a medical treatment that will address the impact of the virus in a manner that it reduces mortality rates, we will continue to exercise extreme caution.   The last 18 months have been difficult for the world at large.  Especially affected have been senior citizens, their risk greater on account of accompanying co-morbidities.  Senior citizens staying on their own have also had to grapple with anxiety and loneliness.   In effect, COVID-19 has been a dark cloud that has left every household having to bear their share of loss.  On the other hand, it has also brought us closer to our residents and their families.  I have no doubt that having fought and achieved greater understanding of  the virus and its impact on individuals and relationships, we will find the world a kinder and nicer place and our industry more evolved and better prepared to serve our residents.

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We hope to sensitise youth to the acute loneliness seniors face every day: Piali Dasgupta of Columbia Pacific Communities

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

So many times we receive good morning and good afternoon messages from our elders on personal chats or in various WhatsApp groups. But we tend to ignore them as just forwards. But have we ever given a thought that a simple reply to those messages at times can make the elders feel remembered, important and cared for?   Putting the spotlight on the issue of elderly lonesomeness on World Senior Citizen’s Day, which is celebrated on August 21, Columbia Pacific Communities, the senior living community operator, launched the initiative #ReplyDontReject with Bollywood actor Boman Irani. The campaign is conceptualised and executed by Famous Innovations.   The campaign is targeted at the brand’s secondary audience segment (the 28-40 age group). It aims to encourage them to help seniors feel less lonely by connecting with them more often, not ignore messages and attempt to reach out.   Piali Dasgupta, Senior Vice-President, Marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities, said in an interaction with BuzzInContent that the brand generally plans between 2-3 brand campaigns a year, to take the brand philosophy of positive ageing forward and one of them is always planned for World Senior Citizens Day (August 21). She said, “This is more an initiative than a campaign, to be honest. With this initiative, we hope to sensitise the youth on the acute loneliness seniors face every day, and why time and a little compassion is the biggest gift you can give a senior today. Sometimes, that is all they want.”   The brand has also created a microsite within its company website that went live on August 21 (World Senior Citizens Day), where people can come and pledge to #replydontreject. The microsite will also have other initiatives planned for World Senior Citizens Day, including the launch of the product Cards Against Uncertainty and The Positive Ageing Report, a report on the changing attitudes to age and ageing, available to download for free for everyone.   The microsite: http://www.columbiacommunities.in/toseniorswithlove   Explaining the reason to launch the microsite, Dasgupta said the campaign needed to prod and nudge people to take an action, and hence, from an execution point of view, the brand actually wanted people to take a pledge to reply to messages sent by seniors no matter how busy they are in their daily lives.   The campaign took two months to complete. Dasgupta said that shooting remotely for the campaign was the biggest challenge for the brand. “Actor Boman Irani, who was roped in to be a part of the campaign, was shooting in Budapest, Hungary, when we approached him to do this for us. So, there were challenges in terms of timelines and also time zones. The script for the actor went through a few rounds of iterations because we wanted to ensure the message was simple enough, and yet personal enough for it to resonate with the audience,” Dasgupta said.   She said, “Staying focused on the end goal of making this initiative a success, aiming for the best and ultimately a lot of teamwork, patience and perseverance helped us overcome these challenges.”   The brand allocates 70% of its ad spends to digital channels. Dasgupta said, “Digital has, over a period of time, proven to be the most ROAS and ROI positive channel for us. Contrary to popular belief, today’s senior citizens are quite digitally savvy and can be reached out over social media channels such as Facebook, WhatsApp, email and can also be targeted on news and other relevant portals through display ads. Given that the average time they spend on the internet has gone up significantly through the pandemic, in many cases replacing television, it makes sense for us to connect with them on digital channels, despite digital being seen as a reach channel as opposed to a frequency channel like television.”   Within the digital ecosystem, Columbia Pacific Communities places its bets mostly on ‘Search’, followed by affiliate marketing, social media and display ads.   The brand has launched a product for seniors, Cards Against Uncertainty, on its website to sensitise people to the mental stress experienced by seniors amid the pandemic as well as to promote mental health and wellbeing among the elderly. The pack of 52 cards contains a unique tip and mood-enhancing suggestions on each card aimed at reducing stress, fear and feelings of despair. The tips range from simple suggestions such as listening to music or doing a yoga asana to something more unconventional like writing a letter to yourself or practising mirror meditation. Considering that not all seniors are tech-savvy, the pack of cards is available in both digital and physical formats and can be experienced or ordered from the microsite.   The brand collaborated with theatre artist Dolly Thakore for a Zoom session with seniors on August 21, 2021, to talk about how she wills herself to action and why she decided to author her debut book ‘Regrets, None’ at 78. Thakore touched upon the creative process and interesting experiences and learnings through her writing journey. She spoke about her career in acting and theatre and what role ageing played in her career.   The #ReplyDontReject and Cards Against Uncertainty initiatives have been launched on the sidelines of the ongoing third annual edition of Platform 2021, a 45-day virtual talent festival and community engagement initiative for senior citizens, organised by Columbia Pacific Communities to promote positive ageing and build social connect among its senior residents. Supporting the flagship initiative, Tata 1MG and Friends Adult Diapers have partnered with Platform 2021 as the official e-Healthcare Partner and Hygiene Partner for the event, respectively.   The two videos of the campaign will run across our social media channels and will be promoted across Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. The campaign will also find a place on our microsite and will be shared with the brand’s entire customer base via email. The campaign videos will be played at the grand finale celebrations of Platform 2021 — a 45-day long inter-community talent hunt on World Senior Citizens Day.

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“We Wanted People To Take A Pledge To Reply To Messages Sent By Seniors No Matter How Busy They Are” – Piali Dasgupta

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

1. What is Columbia Pacific Communities’ internal process of coming up with a marketing campaign? At Columbia Pacific Communities, we plan between two and three brand campaigns a year, to take the brand philosophy of positive ageing forward.   One of them is planned on World Senior Citizens Day (August 21), which, for us, is one of the most important days in the calendar year.   For us, a brand campaign has to be conceived in a manner that says something extremely relevant or takes a step to make the lives of seniors better or unearths a powerful insight about them.   A lot of what we do here is insight-based marketing because the demographic and the category that we serve have several interesting consumer insights that are waiting to be unearthed.   Also, our attempt with each campaign is to change age-old perceptions about age and ageing in this country.   When we sit down to brainstorm about campaign ideas as a team, the fundamental question that we ask ourselves is will this campaign help shatter age-related stereotypes/change ageist attitudes and how will it make the lives of seniors in our country better?   So, in that sense, it’s a simple enough process. For our performance marketing campaigns, however, it is more to do with our product offering and communicating the salient features of our product in an interesting manner to drive bottom-funnel objectives.   2.  What was your thought process when you were conceptualising the campaign – #ReplyDontReject. Please share the story behind. The campaign is based on an interesting insight – which is, every time a senior citizen in your life sends you a meaningless forward like “Good Morning” or a motivational quote, etc, they are actually vying for your attention.   And it is their way of telling you that they miss you, and they wished you would talk to them, send them a message, or call them to check on them.   The campaign has been conceptualised by our integrated agency Famous Innovations. And the brief to them was: how do we sensitize more and more people towards the single biggest issue plaguing senior citizens today- loneliness?   This is more an initiative than a campaign. Recent data shows that 64.1% of India’s seniors suffer from loneliness. Loneliness is the single biggest cause of death for senior citizens. And as a senior care brand, we felt that it was about time we drew everyone’s attention to this global issue.   With this campaign, we want to reach out to the brand’s secondary audience segment (the 25-40 age group) and encourage them to help seniors feel less lonely by connecting with them more often and not ignore their messages and attempts to reach out.   This World Senior Citizens Day, through this campaign, we hope to sensitize the youth on the acute loneliness seniors live with, and why the gift of time is sometimes the best you can give seniors.   From an execution point of view, we wanted people to take a pledge to reply to messages sent by seniors no matter how busy they are in their daily lives. So, we created a microsite (www.columbiacommunities.in/toseniorswithlove) within our website which would go live on August 21 (World Senior Citizens Day), where people can pledge to #ReplyDontReject.   The microsite will also have other initiatives planned for World Senior Citizens Day, including the launch of a unique product – Cards Against Uncertainty (a pack of 52 cards to help beat feelings of despair, stress, and fear) and also The Positive Ageing Report – India’s first report on the changing attitudes on age and ageing, available to download for free for everyone.   3. Why did you decide to rope in Boman Irani and how it has helped the campaign? Boman Irani embodies our brand philosophy of positive ageing. At 61, he is living his best life – acting, scriptwriting, enjoying being a grandfather, and being as productive as he possibly can. He is a true positive ager, looking at age as just a number and not letting it come in the way of his aspirations and dreams. He is enjoying the golden years of his life to the fullest and inspiring millions to begin life at 60. He is a true symbol of our “positive ageing” philosophy which believes that you are only as old as you feel.   Boman also has a huge connect with the brand’s secondary audience – people in the age bracket of 25 to 40, who we are trying to appeal to through this campaign. So, Boman was a natural choice for us.   4. What mistakes marketers should avoid when it comes to creating video campaigns or getting the communication right? Whether it is a video campaign or otherwise, the first mistake marketers should avoid is to forget about the personality and the identity of the brand in a bid to hijack a trend. This particularly happens in moment marketing videos/content pieces.   Being authentic and staying true to your brand’s target audience, personality, positioning, voice, and purpose is of utmost importance because today’s consumers can see through anything that is not real and authentic.   We are living in an age of attention economy. The average human attention span is about 8 seconds today and is believed to be shorter than that of goldfish. Hence in a video campaign, telling a story and delivering an evocative message, sometimes within as little time as 15 seconds, and in most cases, in less than a minute, becomes imperative. And that’s never an easy task, but one that has to be considered by all video marketers today. And finally, there is just too much clutter around us. All the time. There is never really a break from this clutter if you look at it from the consumer’s point of view.   So, marketers need to think of effective ways of cutting through this noise and constant chatter and saying something only when there is something important enough to say.   According to me, a 3-point checklist that ticks the following boxes should be considered by all marketers.   – Is this a piece of content that will further your brand proposition/purpose/narrative and strengthen your positioning? – Does it say something important/funny/witty/emotional enough to stand out in the clutter? – Will it achieve at least one or more of your brand or business KPIs?   About Piali (in her own words) I was your typical introverted child who was not really popular in school, was surrounded by more books than friends and hated Math and Science with equal passion.   I learnt classical dance like most Bengali kids, and also painting. I grew up in Calcutta, and left home and moved to Bangalore when I was 18. After college and university where I earned my Master’s degree in Communication, I started my career in journalism.   I was a fashion journalist for a little over five years, spending a major part of that time with The Times of India. Given my Degree in Communication where you get exposed to various aspects of communication including Advertising, PR, Brand Communication and Marketing, Corporate Communication, and New Media, I wanted to explore other facets of Communication as well. Hence, I decided to switch over to the brand side, joining Myntra as their Fashion Editor to head their Content team.   At Myntra, I drove YouTube and blog content, building content as a strong component of the customer lifecycle and driving commerce through content.   Post Myntra, I moved to Amazon to set up social media for Amazon Fashion in India. I was also part of the core team at Amazon that worked on the Amazon India Fashion Week.   SapientRazorfish (Publicis Groupe) was my next stop where I headed their Bangalore team and was also their Creative Director, handling digital practices for brands such as Louis Philippe, Allen Solly, Peter England, People and Planet Fashion.   By then, I had spent a considerable amount of time in fashion and wanted to do something markedly different from it.   When the opportunity from Columbia Pacific Communities came my way, what excited me the most about it was a chance to build a brand and a category from scratch.   And in the past three years at Columbia Pacific Communities, while I have travelled a long distance, there is a long way to go in making the brand the region’s most favoured senior living community operator.

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World Senior Citizen Day 2021: How the elderly is keeping up with ‘forced’ new normal amid pandemic

Before the pandemic, it was only normal for people to act neighbourly if someone took ill or needed some kind of assistance. Post-Covid, everything changed, making social distancing the necessity of the hour. In such circumstances, how did senior citizens, who live independently in communities, cope with the changes?   On World Senior Citizen Day, observed every year on August 21 to raise awareness around issues that impact older adults including mental well-being, we spoke with some of those in senior citizen living communities on their pandemic experiences, and the services that such spaces offer.   Notably, the elderly are the most vulnerable due to their pre-existing conditions and comorbidities, at times even requiring immediate medical intervention. According to a survey titled State of Seniors conducted in October-November 2020 by Antara Senior Living Homes and Access International, the senior population in India is fast growing with over 20 million elders who stay alone. It added that the number is slated to rise in the next two decades.   How did the elderly manage amid pandemic? Coimbatore-based Dr Jyotsna Codati, who suffers from an autoimmune disorder, lost her husband three months prior to the pandemic lockdown in March 2020. “My children live abroad. Like everyone else in the world who were fighting their own battles to keep their families safe, occupied, and entertained, I also had to keep myself safe,” Dr Codati, who has been living at Columbia Pacific Communities, a senior citizen living community, said.   She began with pandemic precautions as a first measure and was in home isolation till April 2021 until she had her second dose of vaccination. “I scrupulously used a mask and advocated for using one. I also advocated for social distancing and when I found people not taking me seriously, I isolated myself in my home and remained so till April 2021. My home always remained well-ventilated. I opted for RT-PCR so that the community feels safe when I do mix with them. I spend my time gardening and reading and writing,” she said, adding that she has now retired from medical service.   S R Siddiqui, a senior citizen living at Antara Care Homes made sure he was in constant touch with a doctor during the peak of the pandemic. “For any elderly, it’s a hassle to keep track of numerous medicines, appointments, and diet restrictions. I am constantly in touch with a doctor and medical staff who have been very understanding in helping me with my situational needs,” he said.   Some others even tried online and contactless delivery for their essentials. “I have several doctor friends scattered all over the globe (who are also retired) and thanks to WhatsApp, I keep in touch with them. Passers-by in front of my house frequently find me glued to my phone in animated conversations. My family calls every single day and 6-9 in the evening is strictly family time,” described Dr Codati.   Why do the elderly choose to stay alone? While joint families have long survived in India, with improved access to technology and better living standards, seniors are increasingly preferring to live independently, in their own or rented homes, according to the 2020 survey which collected responses from North, South, and West of India, and stated “77 per cent of seniors are currently living independently in their own/rented houses”.   “The upward growth projections clearly signify the role of dependable services in catering to the needs of senior citizens. This demand is further heightened as the Covid-19 outbreak has accelerated the need for specialised and professional services and solutions for seniors,” said Dr Shabnam Mir, head of clinical services, Antara.   Concerns during the pandemic “Fear of the virus infection and social isolation were the two big concerns for seniors during the lockdown,” the survey noted.   “Mental health issues sprout from seeds of phobia, fear of contracting the illness, unavailability of beds and uncertainties of the outcome. The spectrum varies from newly-diagnosed depression, anxiety neurosis, obsessive-compulsive disorders and suicidal tendencies out of exacerbation of pre-existing psychiatric illnesses,” said Dr Karthiyayini Mahadevan, head, wellness and well-being, Columbia Pacific Communities.   So, how did such communities help? Senior living communities, which offer shared spaces for elderly recreation and daily needs, started offering online activities for them to participate in, including fitness. Such communities are managed and maintained by doctors and dedicated medical staff, and have all the resources in terms of medical and dietary needs. They also offer curated activities such as Gita path, Zumba, yoga etc., that keep the mental health of seniors in check, said Dr Mir.   “Assured and uninterrupted supply of food, basic supplies, medicines, cash, and help for utilities at all times” was made available. “This can be done through their local contacts or through the service providers/apps which provide these services,” said Dr Sweta Choudhary, head – medical products and services, Nightingales Home Health Services.   Following a routine involving physical activities, getting the diet and medications constantly checked by an expert, and staying connected with the community is key to staying fit in unprecedented situations, as was Covid, said Dr Mir.   Measures being taken amid the third wave concerns  “We are still careful. We wear our masks, use sanitizers and follow other Covid-appropriate behaviour. We have avoided going into the city since the start of the pandemic and we shall remain within our community till the pandemic is under control,” said Jyothi Mohan — Serene Urbana, Bengaluru — Columbia Pacific Communities.   There’s uncertainty about what to expect from the third wave. But with the surveys conducted on the second wave, it is clear that those who received both doses of vaccination were less affected. Few who got infected despite being vaccinated recovered without hospitalisation, mentioned Dr Mahadevan.   Here’s what some communities are doing:   *Regular health-oriented talks on geriatric health. *Tele-consultations have been encouraged and physical visits have been kept to the minimum to reduce exposure to infections. *COVID-19 preventive protocols are being followed strictly irrespective of vaccination. “Respecting biorhythms in life with regard to diet, sleep and regular physical activities such as walking, exposure to sunlight help in maintaining good immune status, thereby protect against the ferocity of the virus,” said Dr Mahadevan.

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Brand marketing vs performance marketing – the age old debate

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

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” said John Wanamaker, an American merchant and a pioneer in marketing.   Had Wanamaker been a marketer today, he would have had a different point of view on advertising, when it is possible to measure returns on every penny spent.   Wanamaker’s famous statement, quoted till this day, is perhaps the earliest articulation of the brand and performance marketing dilemma.   And while a lot has been said and done on this topic, perhaps the question to ask is: should it be considered a “waste” (read: no returns) or does one half of advertising serve a purpose and add value, but just a different kind of value, and over a much longer period of time?   Let’s face it. The world around us has changed irrevocably. Today, business owners are bottom-line conscious. And in turn, leadership teams are revenue focused. When budgets shrink, Marketing is usually the first department to take that blow as it is often seen as “discretionary spends.”   And that’s often when the dilemma gets real and marketers find themselves in the midst of this brand vs performance tug-of-war struggling to fit in both within very finite, shoestring budgets.   This dilemma however doesn’t just surface in the face of budget cuts. It looms large in meeting rooms when a great creative brand campaign idea is challenged with a “All that is fine. But will this get us revenue? How many units of XX will we sell with this campaign?”   And that, my friends, is where the real problem lies.   Please don’t get me wrong. I am all for performance marketing. Because the primary role of marketing is to create a customer. A customer that you would like to sell your product to. The question is, how do you want to create this customer? What sort of business and philosophical approach do you want to adopt to build a relationship with this customer? Do you just want to sell to him today and at this very moment with a deal which may eventually hurt your brand equity? Or do you want to bond with him, listen to him, interest him, intrigue him, delight him with your personality and then sell to him, so that when you do sell to him, you are a lot more than just another product to him.   The evolution of performance marketing from a CPM (Cost Per Impression) to a CPC (Cost Per Click) to finally a CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) model, has made digital an ecosystem which is more and more bottom funnel focused. And there are many pluses to that. Martech has only made us more efficient and effective with our spends, helping us identify the audience that is the most likely to convert.   But the reason why brand vs performance marketing is an age-old debate is because it is a bit of a catch -22 situation. There is always a trade-off. More so for young, start-up brands that are new in the market, who don’t have the legacy, recognition and the trust factor that established brands enjoy.   So, if you are a marketer of a new brand in an emerging space or even in an established category, this is a great conundrum. Your media planners will continuously tell you that your performance campaigns won’t work as effectively if you focus only on performance marketing, neglecting brand marketing. Your CPA/CPL is likely to shoot up. And you will convert immediately but convert less because you haven’t spent enough time building the brand.   What does this mean in the start-up ecosystem where a lot is about scaling businesses, reaching the first million users milestone as quickly as possible, and ultimately creating investor value? What it probably means if the hiring trends are anything to go by is there is greater focus on performance marketing with candidates for positions such as Head of Performance Marketing, Head of Growth Marketing or even ultra-specific roles such as Head of Email Marketing in high demand.   I have obviously given this conundrum some thought. And to me, it boils down to how Marketing as a function is looked at in an organisation. Or does your organisation consider Marketing as a “cost center” when it shouldn’t be? Or are you fortunate enough to be part of an organisation where Marketing is considered a “profit center” much like what the great management guru Peter Drucker opined, because Marketing, after all, is the only function that drives revenue. And therefore it should be a profit center.   If your business owner and C-suite does not see Marketing as a profit center, but as a cost center, then it is quite likely that there would be pressure to show immediate returns and “recover costs.” The result? Disproportionately higher number of zeroes in the Performance bucket compared to the Brand bucket in your annual budget plan.   On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to be a part of an organisation that values long-term thinking and are patient, stable investors, they are more likely to (there are always exceptions, mind you) understand and appreciate brand marketing efforts and the importance of it.   Quite realistically speaking, in the ROAS obsessed world that marketers live in today, it’s not possible to ignore performance marketing. In fact, many would say, the future is performance marketing, with CMOs having travelled the huge distance of not taking digital seriously to now diverting a large chunk of their marketing budgets to performance marketing. COVID, of course, played a huge part in this transformation.   But a brand’s stories, messages, purposes and personality is what makes it immortal. It’s why the whole nation is in love with the Amul girl. It’s why, when you see a breathtakingly beautiful Dior ad on the pages of Vogue, you don’t really expect to know the price of the handbag or whether it’s on discount. Because to you, that image is enough. It is sacrosanct.   These brands never had short term objectives. And that’s why they are iconic.   But if the objective is short term/immediate returns on investment, by all means, adopt tactical strategies and put out that banner ad with a discount code. But that’s unlikely to strengthen your brand’s positioning and sharpen your USP. You will most likely be seen as “just another discount brand liquidating last season inventory.”   Brands, much like the idyllic city of Rome, can’t be built in a day. Brand building is almost like rearing a child. It takes time, immense patience, love, care, compassion, and also money. There is nothing short term about it. Because if it is short term, it’s not brand building. Simple.   It is possible to find a middle ground. Like everything else in life. And do a great job of it. Look at two wonderful homegrown brands – Swiggy and Dunzo. New age, hungry for revenue and performance driven, but have built very solid brands in less than ten years. All because they could deftly do both. And so, you can too.   I could go on about this. But I will have to review my next performance campaign media plan. Or wait…would it be a brand campaign plan this time?

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Gut matters

The last two years have has brought a lot of prominence to one’s gut health. A healthy gut keeps the body healthy. We have more than 100,000 billion microbes in our intestine. Gut microbiota, which are microorganisms including bacteria, archaea and fungi that live in the digestive tracts of humans, animals and insects, helps in maintaining our immunity. Additionally, it helps in digestion and the absorption of nutrients, vitamin production and decreases inflammation.   Food fix   Some foods that can improve gut health are yogurt, buttermilk, almonds, berries, citrus fruits and bananas. Curd, cheese, rice overnight fermented, pickle (in brine), raw unpasteurised apple cider vinegar with mother (the somewhat murky collection of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria in the vinegar), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kimchi, tempeh, etc. are all sources of good bacteria — lactobacillus. Additionally, garlic, onion, barley, oats, banana, flaxseed, whole grains with bran, etc. are ideal choices for fibres to feed the gut bacteria.   Foods such as cooled plantains (green banana), rice and potatoes convert to resistant starch, which also feeds the good bacteria. Green tea, turmeric, omega 3 rich oily fish like sardines, mackerel to chia seeds have powerful properties to maintain the integrity of the gut lining. Cocoa and dark chocolate are some welcome options to increase bifidobacteria.   According to Geetha G H, a registered dietitian, sports nutritionist (International Olympic Committee) and certified diabetes educator, eating right and keeping fit is the first line of defence that not only elevates wellness but also prevents illness. “Do remember to space your fibre-rich foods adequately in all meals as they contribute to flatus. Consume plenty of water alongside to prevent constipation. Similarly, consuming fermented foods can cause some gas or bloating. Start with small portions, preferably in the daytime to ease digestion when one is more active,” she explains. Eat right Ayurveda recommends herbs like long pepper, black pepper and dry ginger powder to be used as a seasoning for all foods. Those with sluggish bodies and people who put on weight easily can benefit from strong herbs like cloves and peppers. Additionally, melatonin is proven to affect intestinal motility and aid secretion of intestinal enzymes. Jatin Gujrati, business head of the Hyderabad-based Ayurveda brand Vedix, also notes that sipping warm water throughout the day keeps the intestines moving, increases blood flow and aids absorption. “Chilled drinks, including water, constrict the blood vessels and impair digestion and absorption, especially when they accompany meals,” cautions Jatin. “As a habit, one should sip just hot drinks with food.” Additionally, Jatin points out how we also need to mind our body clock when it comes to gut health. “Our bodies have very sensitive internal clocks. When you eat at the same time every day, it aids gut health,” he explains. “Food should not be consumed after 11.00 pm as that is when your metabolic ‘fire’ kindles. Eating at this time precipitates metabolic diseases.”   Dr Karthiyayini Mahadevan, head of wellness and well-being at Columbia Pacific Communities, also talks about how important it is to eat good portions of fibre and more insoluble fibre from plant sources. “This will nourish the gut flora,” she says. “Our gut microbes outnumber the trillions of cells within our bodies and maintain our gut health.” Speaking of how the colonisation of the gut flora occurs even before we are born, Dr Karthiyayini tells us that this gut flora mark specific signatures on our immune system. “This is because the lining of our gut has a lot of cells that play an important role in defending our gut from several types of bad bacteria. A good balance of gut microbe supports the immune system. Gut health contributes a lot to our immune system and good gut health implies good life,” elaborates the doctor.   Health factor A healthy gut can control appetite and weight, moderate metabolism, enhance absorption of vital nutrients and help manage anxiety depression and irritable bowel syndrome and prevent several neurological disorders. Dr Adarsh CK, Chief Consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital, states that gut microbiome changes are also linked to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and some neuropsychiatric disorders. In fact, according to Dr Shamna, general surgeon and consultant general and laparoscopic surgeon, Specialist Hospital, Bengaluru, a healthy human being has is a symbiotic relationship between the gut microbes and the human host. “Role of the gut microbes (‘microbiota’) includes developing and maintaining immunity, helping in digestion, providing vitamins like B2, B12 and folic acid (B9) and keeping disease causing bacteria in check,” Dr Shamna adds. Mind games The gut bacteria influence several neurotransmitters and can underpin our response to stress, which is an integral part of living. In fact, several experts now say that the gut is the second brain and there is a clear gut-brain axis. Also, 95% of the feel-good hormone serotonin comes from the gut. At present, we live in a world of infections and environmental pollution, which has compromised our body immune system function. Dr Vishnu Satheesh, Atmantan Wellness Centre, points out that even our happy hormones is produced in our gut and transported to the brain. “Latest researches have proven there is strong relation between depression and gut as well. So, keep your bugs in your gut healthy to keep a strong mental health,” he explains. When you don’t pay attention to your gut, several problems arise, most of which have the potential of becoming serious and chronic problems. According to Simrun Chopra, Deep Health Coach and founder Nourish with Sim, gut health has also been linked to anxiety and depression in recent times. “A poor diet adds to poor lifestyle habits such as stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea, stomach pain, nausea and heartburn, mood disorders, anxiety or depression,” she opines. Tips for a good gut ·         Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. ·         Add curds, buttermilk and yogurt to your diet. ·         Avoid fried foods, red meat, alcohol and fatty meals. ·         Avoid sugary drinks, artificial sweeteners. ·         Drink plenty of water. .         Regular physical activity and exercise with sufficient sleep.

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Top Health Concerns For Seniors

There are many challenges imposed by COVID-19. One of these is the fear of visiting hospitals. COVID-19 has filled people’s minds with distress and fear of the unknown. For senior citizens, regular health follow-ups during lockdowns were delayed particularly for those who are diabetic or suffer from coronary heart disease. Many seniors also could not reach out to their physicians either due to their unavailability or inaccessibility to hospitals.   Top health concerns During these challenging times of the pandemic, health concerns are broadly segregated into predisposed conditions, precipitated conditions, aggravated conditions and those which are regressed and remitted.   Predisposed health concerns At the physical level: Those staying indoors and experiencing a lack of sunlight are predisposed and prone to reduced bone density especially in the case of women in menopause and physically dependant seniors. With the restriction on their movements, they become osteoporotic and their susceptibility to weaker bones is increased, thereby leading to fractures even with minor falls. At the emotional level: Those who were predisposed to anxiety and phobias. At the mental level: People are predisposed to impulsive decisions due to a clouding of the thought process.   Precipitated health concerns At the physical level: Due to lack of physical activity, there is precipitated overweight, obesity, muscular imbalance and consequent myalgias and postural imbalance due to the weakness of disused muscles and deep vein thrombosis. At the emotional level: The fear of getting infected leads to increased proactive but unresearched precautionary measures, which in turn results in paranoia, anxiety neurosis and obsessive compulsive neurosis. At the mental level: Too much of information consumption leads to mental exhaustion resulting in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.   Aggravated health concerns At the physical level: Lack of physical activity and imbalance in nutrition brought about uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol levels resulting in fatty liver and gall stones. At the emotional level: Subclinical depression showed up as a manic phase of depression due to fear of loneliness and isolation. At the mental level: Indecisiveness and lack of focus and concentration led to uncontrolled thoughts resulting in insomnia.   Regressions and remissions in health concerns At the physical level: Due to inadequate follow-up for certain neurological conditions with movement disorders led to regressions in conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. At the emotional level: Bipolar disorders showed up with remissions and an increase in suicidal tendencies. At the mental level: Disinterest and disinclination to stay connected with the world led to accelerated ageing, impairment of cognition and comprehension of thoughts.   Conclusion COVID-19 has thrown light onto many spheres of human life. Secure and adequate finances was not enough to overcome COVID-19. One could not get oxygen supply or access to hospital beds despite having enough money.   The most important learning was to be sensitive to one’s own health at all levels. We can all maintain our life reserves through a healthy lifestyle at the physical, emotional and mental level.   This is an achievable task in the newer outlook of living together with like-minded people as a community. So, we must change our perception and outlook about senior retirement communities and understand the difference between senior living communities and old age homes. The latter is a haven of positive ageing where physical distance did not mean social distancing and all neighbours and friends bonded together to fight the invisible enemy.

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