In the age of increasing loneliness among the elderly, industrialist Ratan Tata-backed Goodfellows is looking to build a bridge of “intergenerational friendship”.

The start-up brings together young graduates, vetted for their emotional intelligence and empathy, and seniors whose needs may wary from a chat or a walk or even watching a movie to being accompanied to a doctor or buying groceries, says its founder Shantanu Naidu, General Manager at the office of Mr Tata. The venture was launched, Tuesday in Mumbai., in the presence of Mr Tata, and looks to extend to Pune in a couple of months and Chennai in about six months, Naidu said.

The Goodfellows start-up brings together young graduates, vetted for their emotional intelligence and empathy, and seniors whose needs may wary from a chat or a walk or even watching a movie. Video credit: Team Goodfellows

About 15 million elderly people in the country live alone and the loneliness leads to deteriorating mental and physical health, says Naidu. But the fledgling firm that has about 50 seniors already signed up for their services, stays away from navigating the digital world of financial services. There are issues involving privacy and passwords, Naidu told Business Line, however if there is a need from the senior, the help is provided, after informing the family and with every need and action put down on paper. “Documentation is the best form of accountability,” he says.

Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons has provided the initial seed investment, said Naidu, adding that it was his personal investment, without divulging details. The venture is subscription-based, but is based on the paying capacity of pensioners, he says, adding that the money goes towards payment of respectable salaries to retain young people in the company, who are employees and not volunteers. The problem with volunteerism is that once the “altruism streak” wears off, the person may leave and that impacts the senior, he said. From the seniors’ side, the first month is free, after which they can sign on.

The young people recruited here are between 18 to 30 years and they are screened for their emotional intelligence through inhouse psychometric tests, and background checks are done, too.

“The bonds between the two generations created by Goodfellows are very meaningful and are helping to address an important social issue In India,” Tata is quoted in a statement from the company.

At Goodfellows, a certain flexibility is exercised in the interactions between the “grand pals” and the youngsters, Naidu said, to help build a bond. The “GoodFellow” may meet the senior every alternate day for a couple of hours or so, but they do not get into care-giving, he added.

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