Home >News >India >Covid-19, lockdown shoot up interest in senior living facilities

J.D.N. Sharma and his wife had been planning to move into an assisted living facility for seniors for a year. They had even narrowed down their search to six possible institutions. With friends in Columbia Pacific’s Serene Urbana facility in Bengaluru, they decided to stay there for some days as a trial when news started coming in that older adults are at an increased risk of covid-19. Few days later, the nationwide lockdown was announced, and the couple was stuck.

“My son is in Canada, so living alone can be tiresome for us. But at Columbia, everything is taken care for us, from grocery runs to medical care. I think this is the place I would want to be in," says Sharma, 75, who has since booked a place in Columbia Pacific Communities.

Like the Sharmas, many seniors, with no immediate or extended family around, are considering elderly homes, especially after the covid-19 outbreak.

Mohit Nirula, the CEO of Columbia Pacific Communities, says the enquiries for houses have jumped from 70-80 in a week in January to about 450 a week now. “Earlier, the calls would be from children who stayed away from parents or seniors above the age of 70. But now, the enquiries are from all age groups."

In a recent nationwide survey of 5,000 older people, Agewell Foundation, which works for the welfare and empowerment of older persons, found that 70% of elderly were either already facing health complications or fearing to develop some medical complications due to the lockdown restrictions. Anxiety, sleeplessness, lack of appetite and lack of physical activity was found to be the most critical health challenge.

Himanshu Rath, founder-chairperson of Agewell Foundation, says, “We have been getting calls from seniors who have a very pessimistic outlook on life right now. They now believe there is no tomorrow, they are asking for a draft to a will. These calls earlier would be limited to maybe four or five in a day. But during the lockdown, has shot up to 80-100 daily."

The 40-seater Silver Lining Old Age Home in Delhi, too, has witnessed a threefold jump in enquiries during the lockdown. While earlier bookings were made after looking at the facility, during the lockdown there have been three bookings without any visit.

S.K. Jain, trustee and head of medical unit, Silver Lining Old Age Home, believes the sudden spike is because of the fact that an old age home is run by doctors. “Most seniors in India have associated illnesses – diabetes, hypertension, blood pressure. The calls we have got are usually from children who live in a different city or country and are worried about their parents and want them to be someplace safe."

That’s why Shakunthalai, who uses only one name, and her husband decided to live in Columbia Pacific much before the lockdown was announced. She confesses that had they decided to continue to live on their own, even simple tasks like grocery purchases, would have been a big issue. More importantly, the much-needed social interaction would have been limited to calls with relatives once in a while.

Assisted living facilities well understand the importance of social interaction among older adults. Ashiana Housing, a housing solutions provider with a focus on seniors, for example, regularly organizes fun activities for its residents. Senior living at Ashiana jumped to 37% in May from 4% in December. “We have had tambola nights, knitting showcases, quizzes for our residents. They needed some hand holding in terms of how to log on to our Facebook page to take part, but now they have been posting their videos and sharing with residents in other centres," says Ankur Gupta, joint managing director, Ashiana Housing.

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