The concept of old age homes is receiving a makeover into a more saleable format for those who can afford it. Senior living homes or retirement homes are on the rise, with mainstream builders constructing housing projects dedicated to the 60 years plus segment of people.
India has over 100 million people aged 60 plus. They make up about 8.6% of the total population. In urban areas, the elderly are 8.1% of the total urban population (377.1 million).
In its latest report, consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle India has found that senior housing is a $25 billion industry worldwide. India has an estimated demand for three lakh such homes, valued at over $1 billion, according to the report. Retired Col Debu Ghosh, based in New Delhi, said: “The midnight’s children—those born in the 1950s—made good money after India opened up since 1991. Many of them moved from one state to another and even went abroad for work and returned. The midnight’s generation also lived independently and opted not to be a burden on their children. With surplus and retirement funds, they opt for retirement homes, where they can settle down with proper infrastructure and support and where their children may come and visit them once in a while.”
As a result, many metro cities such as Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Pune, and even relatively small towns located some kilometres from thriving city centres like Sohna, Bhiwadi and Dehradun, are turning prime locations for housing projects that cater to the elderly.
“The idea is to sell a ‘retirement’ home, not an ‘old age’ home. We cannot give them (the intended customers) the idea that they are helpless,” says Umesh Gupta, an independent management and property consultant, who has been in the real estate business for over 25 years.
Although most housing societies nowadays offer services for the elderly like free medical check-ups, ramps for access, golf carts ferrying around the campus and the ubiquitous senior citizens’ club, senior living projects are built more along the lines of luxurious old age homes where everything is designed around the elderly and for their independent living, the motto for most being “attentive but unobtrusive” care. “These projects provide them the means to be independent, but offer full-time assisted living facilities as well,” says Gupta. According to the Association of Senior Living (ASLI), a national voluntary membership association for developers/ service providers/ corporates that operates in the senior living industry, in India, only 0.0001% of the population is engaged in some form of senior living. The figures in countries like USA and Austrlaia are 12% and 4% respectively.
The upcoming and established senior living projects not only have apartments with fittings that enhance ease of use and convenience, but they also provide 24-hour medical care, with visiting doctors, and also, usually, a tie-up with reputed hospitals.
Then, there are some like Silverglades First Citizen that has tied up with Age Ventures India (AVI), a non-profit organisation that would offer a range of services to the residents once the apartments are complete. Such NGOs also provide consultation to builders and recommend ways to make an apartment senior-friendly.
“Besides AVI, organisations from the UK and US also assisted us in designing living spaces,” says Arun Dugar, sales manager, Silverglades Group. The Silverglades First Ciitzen Project is scheduled for possession in 2019. “When we placed our first advertorial for the project, we received 600 calls, of which 98% wanted a ready-to-move-in apartment,” Dugar says.
“In 1996-97, when the real-estate industry was not doing well and we were selling houses in Delhi, we observed that a lot of people who are buying property are retirees and they were looking for options which are economical and situated in less polluted places near Delhi,” according to Ankur Gupta, Jt. Managing Director, Ashiana Housing. Ashiana has established itself as one of the major players in the senior living industry, entering the market as early as 2003. “One of the biggest challenges was to provide a dignified lifestyle to the elderly and at the same time keeping it commercially viable,” he says. In fact, the senior living industry, which is being currently catered to by real estate players and charitable organizations, needs more contributors, according to the Association of Senior Living. ASLI writes on its website: “The immediate need is for reputed corporate and professional developers to enter this industry versus pure real estate players. The entry of players with a passion and commitment for developing such projects with a strong emphasis on service will change the perception of such projects being labelled as ‘old age homes’.”