Care homes: Silver lining for senior citizens
Apr 15, 2014
Source : The Times of India


DELHI: With the life expectancy of people increasing dramatically owing to modern medicine and other healthcare facilities, the retirement years of the average citizen often stretches to two-three decades. Thus, this is a period in one’s life that one cannot ignore and must plan and prepare for it.

Also, the needs and necessities in this age bracket are dramatically different and call for enhanced planning, support, and care. Along with the obvious financial aspect, the emotional, social, and physical security of these citizens is also of paramount importance.

These were some of the interesting findings of Age Ventures India (AVI), a non-profit organization that seeks to persuade developers to include a retirement wing in their residential developments.

With longevity becoming a norm rather than exception AVI did a segmentation of the old age. If we take 60 years to be the beginning of the retired life, then 60-75 is ‘early old age’, 75-85 the ‘middle old age’, and 85 plus as the ‘real old age’ when one usually needs assistance in day-to-day living.

Arun Gupta, the director of AVI, says: “Old age is generally the time when people have big houses but empty nests, rise in wealth but fall in health, have fat bank account but are lonely on personal account. But Indians carry a lot of emotional baggage, the so-called attachment to our homes. It’s time to be practical and silver citizens should make use of alternatives like senior housing, which give dignity to life and living.”

Increasingly, retirement homes or senior living communities are drawing the interest of developers across the country, and the model is evolving and improving with every other project. Real estate developers like Ashiana Housing, Paranjape Schemes, Disha Direct, Mantri Developers, etc, have presented innovative ways of designing these homes keeping in mind the needs of the 60 plus population. Demand in senior housing has even triggered the growth of high-end to luxury senior living products in the range of Rs 60 lakh to Rs 1 crore and upwards.

Sensing the dire need for special community-based residential offerings—conceived, designed and built specifically for financially-settled senior citizens—many real estate developers in India have made a foray into the segment of care homes, which have replaced the earlier concept of old-age homes. “While old-age homes symbolizes the last option for the needy and abandoned elderly, contemporary retirement homes or care homes, on the contrary, are believed to be a pleasant concept which promise to make one’s life after retirement not drab but a celebration,” says Ankur Gupta, joint MD of Ashiana Housing Ltd, the pioneer of retirement resorts in India.

Ashiana Housing was one of the first developers in Bhiwadi and the group has already completed and delivered more than six projects like Ashiana Aangan, Ashiana Rangoli, Ashiyana Utsav, etc. Ashiana Utsav is a remarkable project that brought the concept of retirement homes to the town. Senior citizens get a complete experience of homeliness in a resort-like ambience with lush-green landscape all around. Vishal Gupta, the MD of Ashiana Housing, says: “The retirement resort is a resident community of senior citizens only. We also provide round-the-clock security and medical assistance to all the residents.”

Dr Murlidhara Ayurveda, psychologist and assisted living expert, says, “Presently, we have only a limited number of facilities which can match the quality of care homes abroad, like Utsav Care Homes by Ashiana Housing in north India, care homes by Paranjape Builders in Pune, and Dignity Lifestyle in Mumbai, among others.”

Silverglades just launched a senior living project, First Citizen, as part of a bigger project at Gurgaon Extension. Anubhav Jain, the director of Silverglades Group, says: “This is an exclusive community for our urban elite in the heart of Gurgaon and not in a back of beyond location. Today’s urbane elderly are not happy with just anything and want the best of everything—they are indeed our first citizens and we must create a product befitting their needs and expectations.”

The project has 156 exclusive apartments spread over 17.5 acres in 1- and 2BHK format and each unit is designed with international senior living specifications.

Riva Homes by Tata Housing is another recent project in this segment. Brotin Banerjee, the MD and CEO of Tata Housing, says: “Gone are the days when Indians after retirement thought of sitting at home and lead a passive life.

“Today’s globe-trotting Indian is aware of international standards and is demanding an active lifestyle after retirement. The demand was clear to us—we received more than 4,000 inquiries from various locations in the first month that Riva was launched at Bangalore.” Tata Housing plans to invest around Rs 1,200 crore on 12 projects across eight cities by 2018. Golden Estate is another senior citizen home, promoting luxury lifestyle for senior citizens in NIT Faridabad. “Low mortality rates, higher standard of medical assistance, increase in literacy and income have enhanced the life expectancy of people as a whole,” a spokesman of the firm says.

Currently, India’s aged population requires over 3,00,000 units of special assisted living, of which 3,000 units are available.

If developers devote a part of their projects for premium senior living, it can be a winning combination for all. Catering to the emotional, physical and lifestyle needs of this silver generation, the senior citizen segment is emerging as a large market with discerning, experienced buyers. The senior housing is a $25 billion industry worldwide but India is a relatively younger country in this sector when compared demographically to the US and Japan.

Rising wealth of the average professional and entrepreneur through India’s rapid growth in recent decades is changing the way many senior citizens grow old, breaking up the traditional family units.

With the rise of individualism, everyone across age groups requires his or her own space, literally! The going is great as long as one’s health holds up, but as the inevitable physical deterioration sets in, one requires assisted living. As the young migrate to other cities or counties looking for jobs and opportunities, their parents are often left behind; and once they start growing old, there needs to be a reasonable mechanism to take care of their special needs. In this line, developers have sensed an opportunity and started developing holistic solutions sensitive to the needs and expectations of today’s silver citizens.

So, how is a senior citizen project different from a regular one: the differences are of two kinds-one is at the level of design and the second, resident services.

At the level of design, these communities provide an environment for obstruction-free movement, wheelchair-friendly movement with anti-skid flooring, grab bars, wider corridors, and rest benches in corridors. They include emergency control systems in the bathroom, bedroom and living room, anti-glare signage, large bathrooms to accommodate un-assisted wheelchair movement, free space under the wash basin or sink for ease of movement, double-height peep holes on entrance door and rounded wall corners. Resident services are features that promote an active living such as common dining, fitness-cum-physiotherapy sessions, indoor games, multipurpose auditorium and library, and doctor at site for routine medical check-ups.

Personal support services like laundry and ironing, shopping, handyman, help with mails, utility bills, etc, are also available in many of these projects.

Often there are two to three kinds of concepts within a retirement community: independent living, assisted living, and continuous care. The first is for active senior citizens who can take care of themselves while the other categories are meant for the elderly residents who need ‘24×7 assistance’ in living.

These communities have a 24×7 ambulance service, physiotherapy, round-the-clock nurse and OPD (out-patient department) service, among others. Usually, developers have tie-ups with medical care providers. For instance, for healthcare, Tata Housing Development Co Ltd in Bangalore has tied up with Apollo Healthcare Ltd for all the services.

However, some questions are in order: How do developers ensure that these communities are utilized by senior citizens and not become a paradise for speculative investments by brokers and financiers. To address this, developers are making it mandatory for the home to be bought in the name of a person who is over 55 years. Children can come and stay but they cannot live beyond a stipulated time period, say 60-90 days. Even on inheritance, children can inherit this property but cannot stay here until they are over 55 years old.

Second, so far most of these communities have come up in far away locations. Land is a costly asset and hence it has not been feasible to create these projects integral to a city; often they are on the outskirts or the periphery of cities, making them an island of goodness. Nowadays, however, several real estate developers are making an effort to create a part of their project as senior living where residents get the advantage of a good location and feel integral to the rest of the city. Third, are these concepts in assisted living or are they just another way of unique positioning adopted by developers? At a glance, it would seem that a majority of these projects are a genuine effort on part of some developers and they are generating good demand from users. Four, are retirement homes a more civilized form of old-age homes? The latter has unpleasant connotations—that of irresponsible kids ‘dumping’ their elderly, much against their wishes.

Retirement homes, on the contrary, are a conscious choice of the elderly, to lead an independent life in a safe environment, a gated community that ensures quality life. It is about restoring respect and dignity in a safe and secure environment with round-the-clock security and healthcare services at one’s disposal. Sometimes it is the children booking these homes for their parents to ensure they are in safe hands, while at others, the silver citizens themselves take the lead. Indeed, good quality retirement homes come as golden option for many silver citizens.

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