60 is the new 30

By engaging a retired demographic, Bihani is working to create new resources and a new client base.

What do you do when you’re aging and society says you need to retire? What if you feel like you can still contribute to society? Bihani Social Venture Private Limited inculcates the idea that “age isn’t a barrier – it’s just an obstacle that we need to tackle” and tries to change the stereotypical view of aging for a more meaningful life. Santoshi Rana, founder of Bihani says, “I came up with the idea of Bihani because I was aghast about growing old, seeing the strongest people in my life growing dependent with time because they believed old age turned their feet cold,” Bihani gives aged veterans a platform to re-live, re-engage and re-explore. It also provides social activities, health services, and organizational services. Ms. Rana explains that social activities include engaging their clients in networking, interactions, book clubs, movie clubs, and performing arts while health and wellbeing would give them the opportunities of fixing appointments with doctors and physiotherapists. “The organizational service focuses on volunteering and planning income generating activities,” says Ms. Rana. Revealing the reason behind such services she says, “We can still mingle as we always do when we are old and earn a little to sustain ourselves – waiting for years to make you even feebler isn’t right.”

“When I first spoke about my ideas to people, they thought it would be an old age home but my plan was to involve the experience of the elderly in doing something productive. During her research, Ms. Rana found that there were a lot of organizations for children, women, migrants and disabled persons but for aged people there were only old age homes. She recollects the dilemma of running the company as a NGO or a private company when she went through the process of registration. “I went with private social venture so that I could provide a solution to problems but also gain at the same time.”

Introducing herself now as a social entrepreneur, she is taking her chances in re-introducing aged veterans in business and social circles again. With team members Bani Rai and Banisha Rai, she recently organized Friday Festive where she launched her outlet. “Basically, we give people a platform to do their thing like Surja Maya Gopali, 60, who is here with her group to sell Newari cuisine and advertise her catering,” says Ms. Rana. Health at Home assistants also displayed their services at the event. On supporting Bihani, Dr. Bishal Dhakal of Health at Home says, “Bihani and Health at Home share the same motive, so I thought why not use the outlet for our benefit..”

The septuagenarian Prof. Som Prasad Gauchan, owner of Everest Tea, collaborates with Bihani as an inspiration to change, for those who think being old is the same as being worn out. “Of course I’d like youth to be involved with me in this business but then I am also open to old people” says Prof. Gauchan, welcoming a new demography of employees. He mentioned his presence at the event as being about creating more contacts for his estate.

At Bihani’s pilot event, Amun Thapa of Sasto Deal talked about how elderly people could make use of the Internet in the same manner they had adapted to cell-phones in the past. Talking about his own company, Mr Thapa explained how it could help the elderly in getting what they needed delivered at home by just pressing on some keys. He underlined the benefit of connecting with the new generation and at the same time staying updated about many things through the Internet. Bihani is associated with many ventures and gives a forum to the elderly to associate with and play a valuable role for the society. There are about 7,854 elderly citizens in Kathmandu (according to the National Population and Housing Census 2011) who gradually slide into a dependent lifestyle after having lived their entire lives independently.

They are restricted to a retirement concept that doesn’t allow them to exercise the free will that they once used to enjoy. Redefining old age to encourage participation from the older generation, Bihani is introducing the idea of aging gracefully and living to the fullest while it happens.

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