India is home to a new generation of Indians age 60 and over. They’re independent, financially stable, have travelled the world, and now they’re looking for somewhere to retire comfortably. As per the Census of India, 2011, India had about 98 million elderly citizens. Furthermore, overall life expectancy is now on the rise, pushing retirees’ needs in the limelight and demanding they be addressed. People over the age of 60 are expected to account for 20% of India’s population by 2050, and they need a home to live their sunset years in the luxury of comfort and ease.
The idea of senior living in India has been gaining traction in recent years owing to the migration of Indians and the breakdown of the joint family model. Senior living communities became popular in the West in the early 80s. In India, this concept is steadily gaining maturity, with the developer community starting to recognise the existence of a potential market of senior living communities.
As a country that takes pride in its culture, and in its sense of community, children caring for their elders has is an essential aspect of “family duty”. It has grown to be an unspoken expectation of one’s children – that retirement reverses the equation between parent and child, and the child naturally takes on the role of caretaker. However, over time, caretaking for elders has changed in nature, and in the process, senior living has become popular.
Changing the perception of old age homes
The conventional understanding of old age homes in India as spaces of abandonment is undergoing a paradigm shift, with new a new level acceptance starting to be found within today’s society. Various factors have come together to make old age homes a true necessity. The tabooed perception of such homes is changing, with the changing set up of these establishments, catalysed by an increase in nuclear families, and the number of non-resident Indians (NRIs) concerned about leaving their parents alone. Understaffed, government-operated old age homes are being replaced with whole townships or communities dedicated to the convenience of the elderly.
These emerging communities have tie-ins with medical establishments, with staff members meeting specific food and nutritional needs and an infrastructural design that puts the convenience of senior citizens at its core. These include wider doors and bathrooms for wheelchair access, strategically placed railings for walking support, skid-proof tiles, and emergency call buttons.
But more importantly, these new-age old age homes provide a like-minded community for the elderly, with activities designed just for them. Games, group activities, and regular sessions of song and dance to keep the elderly engaged, active, and in constant interaction with people, combatting the very real concern of loneliness in one’s old age.
Old-age homes are now changing, even in nomenclature, to homes for Independent or Assisted Living. Independent Living homes cater to people who may have just retired (in their late 50s or early/mid-60s), and are still capable of living by themselves, while being part of the community, and may not require round-the-clock care. Assisted Living homes, on the other hand, target older audiences, who require medical and specific dietary attention, and may be suffering from ailments.
There is also a prevalent concept of Continuing Care Communities, though more prominent in the West than in India, that caters to a population of senior citizens across time. The nature of care in these facilities might develop from independent to assisted over the years, with facilities that meet these changing needs with time.
The business of care
In India, the construction of old-age homes has boomed in the last few years, with prominent developers taking centre stage in this arena including Paranjape Schemes, Tata Housing, Adani Realty, Silverglades, Ashiana Group of Builders, Brindavan Senior Citizen Foundation, Impact Senior Living Estate, and Covai Properties.
These builders offer rentals, leasing, or units for sale, which may range from basic to luxury in nature. As the population of independent, well-earning senior citizens increases, so too will the opportunity for increased spending on a luxury homes and communities, post-retirement.
With each new generation, the definition of “old” becomes new. Senior citizens today are much more tech-savvy, mobile and self-sufficient than they used to be. These homes are becoming viable options for people from ages as early as 55. They are becoming a place where people can live comfortably and return to previously abandoned passions-or move from a joint family set up and live life on one’s own terms once again.
In a culturally sensitive market like India, retirement homes are ushering in a new wave – a chance, for many today, to live a life of renewed independence.