Covai and the Art of Senior Care

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Interview of Col Achal Sridharan, Founder and Managing Director of CovaiCare with Unmukt.

What was the idea behind the launch of Covai Care?

After I took premature retirement from the army in 1995 and entered into real estate development business. In 2001, I created my company named Covai Property Centre India Private Limited (popularly known as Covai in this segment). About 16 years ago we ventured into senior living projects and created Covai Senior Citizens Services Private Limited to provide services to the seniors living in the projects created by Covai. We realised the importance of care for the ageing elders. To manage our Assisted or Memory or Persons With Disability (PsWD) Care centres we created Covai Elder Care Private Limited. With a simple vision to Solve Ageing – be it living or services or care or products we created the brand CovaiCare.

CovaiCare has created 17 senior care (inclusive of living) projects in multiple locations in South India that also include Serene Brand of retirement communities. I left Serene in 2015. We have also created Assisted, Dementia and PWD Care Centres as part of our senior care projects.

What care and precautions are you maintaining at Covai Care during the outbreak of this pandemic?
We knew that the senior population needs protection from the COVID -19 virus as many of them had co-morbidities. With scanty information, we decided that we will isolate our elders and bring in protocols for our staff and elders to minimse the possibility of coming in contact with a person who is affected by this virus. This was not easy since many were asymptomatic. So we devised basic protocols to follow like frequent hand washing, physical distancing, mask, hygiene. We implemented protocols for staff like checking their temperature, briefing them on basic protections that they need to take, checking if there were any positive case from their locality, etc.

We improved the hygiene standards like disinfecting and cleaning the kitchen and dining spaces, disinfecting the retirement community, not allowing visitors to come in, washing vegetables with saline water and turmeric, washing milk sachets with soap and water, providing whatever the elders needed in their homes. We made our nurses more responsible to not only check our staff for signs of the virus but also of the residents.

These protocols were dynamic and were modified with lockdowns or UNLOCK as imposed by the Government.

What are the biggest issues that ail the senior community in India?
Some of the issues affecting senior communities are:

a. Longevity and the consequent requirement of care – assisted, dementia, palliative etc.
b. Post COVID -19 life makes home care more difficult to get. Shift to senior care communities are happening.
c. Loneliness leading to depression.
d. Problems of rural and EWS seniors need lot of attention, since 70 per cent of senior citizens live in rural areas.
e. Lack of care centres and high cost of home care.

Today (August 21) is also World Senior Citizens Day. What does the day teach us and how should we observe it?
For a senior citizen, every day is important and should be celebrated! One of the problems of senior citizens is loneliness and lack of companionship. Companionship need not necessarily be physical. Even when someone cares for the other, or goes out or sits and chats or share our joys and sorrows, there is companionship. Loneliness causes depression. Senior citizens, especially if they are single, do feel lonely and look for companionship.

This year’s World Senior Citizens Day let us rejoice life, do not feel lonely and be blessed by companionship in whatever form that one may desire!

A bit about yourself. A day in your life. What keeps you going at 71?
From army to real estate to senior care has been my journey since 1965 that I am still continuing. I start my day with a walk and exercise for one hour, work from 10 AM to 6PM, and relax at home with my wife since our daughters live abroad with their families.

I consider age as a number and realise that life’s challenges are to be met and solutions found. I am not 71 years old. I am only 21 senior care projects young! Team CovaiCare and I are trying to protect our seniors as much as we can from this virus. We follow protocols and SOPs. You can remove the Colonel from me, but not the army!

We are now creating ageless communities as well as care centres. I keep myself busy! I have an excellent team. When I find time, I write or read! Or upgrade my tech knowledge!

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