The Senior Care Ageing Growth Engine (SAGE) initiative was launched by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in June 2021. The scheme was introduced by the ministers of social justice and empowerment – Thaawarchand Gehlot, Ramdas Athawale and Rattan Lal Kataria – along with R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary of the Department of Social Justice.
The programme has been implemented to further the welfare of senior citizens in the country. It is a value addition to the existing schemes that cater to this demographic—Integrated Programme for Older People (IPO), Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY) 2016, Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY) 2017, Vayoshreshtha Samman 2019 and Maintenance & Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (MWPSC) Act 2007.
Need for SAGE
As per the national records, the elderly population in India stood at 134 million in 2020. Of the total population in the country, the share of senior citizens is expected to increase from ~12.5% by 2026 to >19.5% by 2050. According to the social survey estimates, >80% of this population stated that they are leading a vulnerable and disconnected existence without adequate access to quality healthcare, safety systems, financial security and social support. This showcases an urgent need to have an integrated operating system, enabling elders to have a dignified and safe ageing experience.
Additionally, the social survey revealed that this demographic is interested in capacity building and upskilling towards life-long careers. With the adoption of remote work practices and flexible schedules, this labour force can enjoy productivity and contribute to the economic growth.
The key objective of the SAGE initiative is to promote the ‘Silver Economy’ by encouraging entrepreneurial ventures and start-ups to participate in this space. ‘Silver Economy’ is defined as the system of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services aimed at utilising the purchasing potential of the older and ageing populations, as well as satisfying their consumption requirements and living essentials and healthcare needs. The Silver Economy is described in the field of social gerontology as an instrument of the ageing policy towards forming a needs-oriented economic ecosystem for an aging population. The SAGE project intends to identify, evaluate, verify and aggregate these needs to deliver products, solutions and services to the stakeholders.
The ministry has allocated an initial sum of Rs. 100 crore (US $13.7 million) for evaluating and promoting the Silver Economy in India. Nearly one-fourth of this allocated budget, i.e., Rs. 25 crore (US $ 3.4 million), has been assigned for use in FY2021-22.
The government envisions elements of gerontechnology – enabling technologies to suit the requirement of the elderly population – to be vital for implementation of this scheme. Gerontechnology includes various technical systems and solutions to help the elderly and their caregivers perform basic daily activities. Gerontechnologies enable elders to maintain their autonomy and help compensate for functional impairments. To achieve this objective, the ministry has called upon entrepreneurs and start-ups to develop impactful and innovative solutions for the elderly.
The ministry conducted detailed research with expert groups on subjects ranging from financial security, livelihoods and income generation, shelter, skilling & reskilling, healthcare and nutrition, awareness, and capacity building to develop an outline of the ideal senior care model. It launched the SAGE portal on June 5, 2021, to receive business idea applications from entrepreneurs and start-ups to plug gaps in this model. Applications that showcase innovative products and services to elderly people in the fields of healthcare services, travel and ticketing services, financial management services, legal services, real estate management services, and food & nutrition management services will be selected under the SAGE initiative.
The ministry has developed a 9-by-9 grid defining the elder care focus areas for evaluating start-ups and business ideas under this scheme.
Initial estimations suggest that the Silver Economy is worth Rs. 73,082 crore (US $ 10 billion) at present. To boost traction in this space, the ministry has pledged Rs. 1 crore (US $140,000) as the initial equity funding for each start-up selected to commence operations under the SAGE initiative. It will also continue to participate in the initiative by playing the role of a facilitator between businesses and target populations once the start-ups deploy product and service solutions. In addition, the government has outlined a vision for ‘model senior care’ public-private partnership (PPP) projects, in which states will be allowed to allocate land and funds to build capacity and care facilities for senior citizens, including people from the weaker sections of society. The PPP model stressed the need for recognising senior care as a sector with the appropriate regulations and standards, policy support, tax structure, availability of subsidised financing and appropriate governance mechanisms.