Senior citizens in the UAE, this one’s for you!

In improving the quality of life for senior citizens and residents in the UAE, Simi Nigar and Neha Kapoor Suri have rediscovered their place in the world.

It is something to behold as income loss and limited savings coupled with the unwillingness to burden your kids makes discounts suddenly take on a whole new appeal.

The golden years of life, more often than not, see the promise of well-deserved bliss replaced by the struggle to make savings last longer and fit into a world becoming increasingly unyielding. Add to that the fact that nobody considers the senior demographic particularly profitable, and it makes for a bleak prospect.

Armed with a dream to inspire their children and give the world a modicum of redemption on this front, Co-Founders Simi Nigar and Neha Kapoor Suri conceived the idea of Seniors First.


Neha Kapoor Suri, Co-Founder Of Seniors First


The beginning of a journey


It helped that the two have previous experience working in the development sector in India focusing on health and livelihood issues. A one-stop portal, their main goal is to provide a curation of all senior-specific discounts and relevant products across the spectrum in the UAE. And it all began with a pitch to The Ma’an Social Incubator Programme.

“One by one we got here [to the UAE] and we kept in touch. [So now that our kids have begun schooling] and we have a lot of time at hand, we want to explore things. That is when Neha found out about Ma’an and we started thinking seriously about puing our ideas into practice,” says Simi.

Perseverance is a strong suit of the duo, palpable throughout their entire journey. When their first pitch failed to land, far from disheartened, they approached the next attempt with more research and a survey. Approaching seniors across malls in the capital with a few questions and three broad ideas, they managed to collect enough data to whittle it down to what it is today. The year-long journey has been far from easy though, as most inspiring stories go.


Simi Nigar, Co-Founder Of Seniors First


Conquering it all


According to Neha, language has been one of the biggest barriers for the team. “We do not know Arabic and a large proportion of the seniors residing in this country are Arabic speaking,” she says. “We have also been at home for a long time, so making contacts and building a network is hard. We had to depend on Ma’an and leverage our new contacts to reach out.”

One of the more surprising challenges Simi and Neha encountered was the hidden costs of building an enterprise from scratch, both monetary and otherwise. From visas and bank accounts, getting held up in procedures and formalities for months, to costs springing up at every turn, there is always a new summit to conquer each day.

This, though, has hardly deterred them from their goal. What started from a personal place of worrying for their fathers, over 365 days has morphed into a website determined to help seniors make informed spending decisions. However, economic empowerment is just one-half of the picture.


A community for seniors


Social inclusion and beer mental health for residents aged above 60 is just as much of a priority. So, if there is a gym or wellness centre around with an attractive discount for seniors, it is just as much of an opportunity to build a community of happy and involved seniors as it is to get healthier.

Marketing and building a social enterprise hardly work in tandem. Regardless, the pair have pushed themselves and their digital skills to the farthest, working to establish a presence on all platforms and attending any event that will have them. Today, they stand one month away from launching the Seniors First application.

Aside from having all the information relevant to both seniors and their caregivers, the application also hopes to liaise with private players to provide exclusive discounts to senior users.

Simi says, “It is time for the private sector to step up and pitch in for senior causes at home (UAE). Senior insurance is very expensive. For expatriates, there are many things that are not covered under basic plans.”

“If you look at it, for hospitals in this instance, the infrastructure is already there, they do not have to establish anything. So when people come in with limited insurance coverage, these institutions just need to be sensitised towards helping out with discounts, which will make their pie (profits) bigger. Without much additional cost on their part, they will bring in people who might have not come in otherwise,” she adds.

Looking at how far they have come, you would never guess these women started out with little idea of what they would face. All they had was the vision to make an easy, affordable, and convenient life for seniors. To teach their kids that mothers are more than homemakers. To give themselves the satisfaction of a purpose in life. And they are well on their way to doing it.


To volunteer, contribute, or market with Seniors First, visit seniorsfirst.ae

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Image source Seniors First, Unsplash

Caroline D’Almeida

A little bit of India, a little more of the UAE, and a lot of shawarma perhaps best captures Caroline’s anatomy. An avid believer in value for money, her hobbies include putting the ‘elite lifestyle’ to the test. And finding cheaper dupes for it all. A Sharjah girl new to the capital, she hopes to discover the pulse of the emirate.