Old-age homes are now changing to become a place where people can live comfortably and live life on one’s own terms once again.
The concept of senior living has got a facelift, thanks to targeted residential societies. We asked experts if they work or continue to be viewed as taboo
Anshul Jain, country head and MD, Cushman & Wakefield India
Perceptions are changing
With increasing life expectancy and refined health services, the average population of senior citizens is booming in India. People over the age of 60 years are likely to constitute over 25% of the country’s population by 2050, and infrastructure for them is only gradually catching up. Given sparse government policies, the private sector has embraced this opportunity to develop retirement homes.
While old-age homes have typically been a taboo in a collectivist culture like India’s, this perception is changing with the changing set up of these establishments, and increase in nuclear families, and the number of NRIs concerned about leaving their parents alone. Understaffed, government-operated old-age homes are being replaced with whole communities dedicated to the convenience of the elderly. They have tie-ups with medical establishments, staff members meeting specific food and nutritional needs, and an infrastructural design that keeps the convenience of senior citizens at its core. Old-age homes are now changing to become a place where people can live comfortably and live life on one’s own terms once again. For many, today, the idea of old-age homes is evolving—from being associated with abandonment to independent living instead.
I believe the taboo with retirement homes is going away because the push for living in them is coming from the elderly themselves, unlike the commonly held notion that children are driving their parents to live in such communities and I say this from whatever interaction I have had with senior citizens who live in senior citizen communities.
One of my clients loves the experience so much that she invited other senior family members to live with her for a few days. She says at her age there is no sense of competition, only camaraderie and companionship. She now has an active social life, which was missing earlier, and events to attend. My client, a Carnatic music aficionado, also showcases her talent now.
Sometimes these gated, secure facilities are constructed within larger communities of younger, working professionals, so seniors don’t feel cut off from the rest of the world.
Relationships between parents and children improve because parents are less dependent on children. The children, in turn, are relieved of a sense of guilt and feel good about providing their parents with high quality of life.
Saumyajit Roy, founder, Ignox Labs, consultants in alternate assets
Blend of hospitality, healthcare
The elderly population in India will triple from 130 million now to 300 million by 2050. We have as many elders as is the population of Mexico or Russia today. Despite these numbers, we have a blind spot on various needs of seniors. Our detailed estimates reveal that the current senior housing demand is about 300,000 houses, across nine specialised senior living formats, while aggregate formal supply is only 20,000 units. Over the last 10 years, companies that focus on senior living have grown from about 10 to 37 with the number of such senior living communities growing from 25 to 90 across economic segments.
Senior living is a perfect blend of housing, hospitality and healthcare and is primarily a service-focused business with real estate as an enabler. Life in a senior living community is all about spending hassle-free quality time with like-minded peers, enjoying a socially rich calendar, while being in a safe, secure and health-conscious cocoon. Developers in this sector are able to command 15-20% higher price points and a 20-30% faster sales absorption.
Tara Singh Vachani, MD and CEO, Antara Senior Living
Senior living, not old-age home
When I started Antara Senior Living in, I travelled the world to research the concept of senior living communities to see what worked and what didn’t. During that time, I knew India was ready, both culturally and economically, for senior living.
There were a couple of things that convinced me to move quickly. First, Indian seniors do not consider themselves seniors any more. To them, ‘senior’ is a pejorative term that is both archaic and rusty. This comes from the realisation that these people have led successful lives and careers and raised successful children. These people are thoroughly modern in their views and do not want to depend on anyone—this is the first truly revolutionary change I saw. The stigma of parents being left on their own simply doesn’t exist for such people. Second, people also had the realisation that while they had devoted their life to building something for others, it was time they did things they had never found time to do and since everything in the community is taken care of superbly, it leaves them time to pursue their passion and be with like-minded people. Finally, the phrase “old-age home" is so ill-suited for this day and age. It is senior living that is present-day and here to stay.