New age retirement homes are giving senior citizens the luxury of comfort coupled with practical solutions that ensure that life becomes enriching and meaningful.
Kanakavalli Chari is a sprightly and creative 78-year old woman who had a hectic and monotonous work life. When not creating art, she can be found attending Carnatic music concerts and other community events. Lakshmanan Murugesan, 70 makes planters out of discarded material for his garden, which serves as a platform for his creativity and brings him great happiness and joy. Age is certainly no barrier for these enthusiastic persons who are residents at Columbia Pacific Communities, India’s largest and most experienced senior living community operator. In fact retirement homes are changing the dynamics of how people are choosing to live the retired lives.
Making the Difference
Twenty years ago, India was not ready for its children and parents to live separately. However, things have changed rapidly in just a few years, and more and more children are moving to other cities or countries for their careers, and parents end up staying alone. That is when the concept of retirement communities came in. The difference between an old age home and a retirement community is not just a semantic one. “A retirement community includes enhanced technological features, like CCTV surveillance and Emergency Response System (ERS) that are designed to make life easy and comfortable for seniors. These communities are built with utmost attention to detail – from anti-skid tiles to chamfered wall edges, the whole space is optimized to avoid any sort of injuries. Most importantly, seniors are kept busy and active with a number of communal activities, like cinema screenings, group exercises, games, all with seniors their age. This kind of community living ensures that seniors do not suffer from alienation or loneliness, and their self-esteem is intact, as they do not have to depend on their children,” says Kewal Kapoor, Director & Creative Strategist, CHAI Kreative and Return of Million Smile.
Retirement homes located at destinations that have a healing aura and weather facilitates happiness and productivity. A retirement home cannot be sold the same way a house is, and the branding needs to be more emotional and passionate. Retirement home developers should involve senior citizens as consultants at the planning stage to get a more cohesive view of their needs and demands. Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities avers, “within residential real estate sales, the only two sub-segments that are showing a positive trend are senior living and co-housing. In fact education and jobs in cities away from “home” are the drivers for both these segments. As the millennials seek better opportunities in India and abroad, their parents, now free from their family responsibilities do not wish to relocate, wish to remain independent, relieve themselves from the worry of the day to day chores while remaining physically active, mentally alert and intellectually engaged with like-minded neighbours, hence the buoyancy in senior living communities.” These communities are also designed in a way that they keep the residents’ calendar busy and improve their quality of life with well-designed activities, organized outings and holidays. A far more wholesome experience with end-to-end services are becoming the order of the day when it comes to Senior Living Residences and technology is playing a major role. “Vineet Verma, Executive Director & CEO, Brigade Hospitality avers, “we firmly believe that the term ‘Retirement Homes’ needs to get replaced with “Independent Living for Seniors’ and this I what we at Brigade have done. A lot many solutions are available today (and the list is growing) where living in a Senior Living project is becoming a lot more convenient and enjoyable. In fact, a number of start-ups in India have started looking at Elder Care as the next big bet.”
A key issue as one ages is health and these homes are ensuring there is a special emphasis on both the right care and top notch facilities as well. “In terms of healthcare, the elderly are regularly administered to depending on their own individual diagnosis. From Healthcare professionals available around the clock, to specialists who arrive during any time of need, to an in-house nutritionist to plan out meals, the care given to the elderly is remarkable,” says Kavya, CEO, Athulya Assisted Living, a Chennai based start-up providing a well-fashioned premium living space made solely for the elderly. While Assisted Living was initially launched with the aim of long-term care for seniors, respite care or short-term care for recovery aimed at nursing and rejuvenating seniors from an illness or surgery at retirement homes is also becoming an option. “This short-stay will enable seniors to overcome the aftermath of the health condition they had been suffering from. There is another short-stay motive that is becoming popular. This sojourn is intended to take a break and as a short refreshing move from regular life or a break given to the caregivers or family members while they may be away on vacation or are preoccupied,” adds Kavya.
In fact at Eden Retirement in North India, integrative medicine is combined into the facility for the holistic health and wellness of the residents. Deepak Gupta Founder & Managing Director, Eden Retirement Living Pvt. Ltd., explains. “conventional medicine does not address improving all the aspects of holistic and overall health of people. Till now, much of conventional medicine has been about contributing to increasing life expectancy, but not the quality of life. Addressing this and including other forms of traditional and alternative healthcare in an integrated manner is what Integrative Medicine is all about. People can now look forward to living a better quality of life with holistic and preventive wellness. There are real estate features built in like grab bars in bathrooms, anti-skid and anti-bacterial vitrified tile flooring in all rooms, ramps for wheelchair access, bigger lifts, wide passages and large flush doors to accommodate wheelchairs, zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) / non- toxic, washable and bacteria resistant paint.”
Retirement communities are better equipped than individual homes, thanks to the technological innovations like smart devices for continuous monitoring, and round-the-clock medical services that make such spaces more inviting and safe. The introduction of safety switches, emergency call buttons have already found its way into senior living. Further advancements of portable medical equipment in the form of wearables are being developed to empower these spaces to offer the best care. “Technology will have a presence by way of Intelligent Building management system, wearable tags by residents with an integration of data for records (EHR, electronic record keeping) and home automation with the help of IoT,” avers Gupta. Nibhrant Shah, Founder & CEO, Isprava adds, “sustainability is by far the most conducive trend in retirement homes. Installing eco-friendly and restorative appliances and tools as well as using such materials in the house is not only trending but it also adds to the satisfaction in of the buyer, by means of contributing to the protection of the environment. Besides this, building homes amidst greenery, where they can relax, hear the birds chirp every morning and be one with nature.”
From a study conducted by CII, it is observed that the elderly population is set to touch about 300 million by 2050, accounting for 18% of the overall population. Delhi-based NGO, Agewell Foundation reported that 23% of elders from a sample of 10,000 seniors live alone without their spouse or children. This calls for attention towards better welfare measures for the elderly. In the same survey, 88.5% of the respondents said they needed healthcare assistance to be independent. The survey was conducted across 20 states in India during May-June 2018. Likewise, as per a report by JLL, the retirement home industry in India is all set to grow in the coming years. New players from the real estate market are entering the segment to meet the growing demand. The current housing demand for seniors in India is around 7 lakh units. By 2025, the number of senior citizens in the country is expected to increase to 250 million. Of the 110 million senior citizens living in the country today, over 27 million of them need special assistance of some kind with their daily activities, and this number is also set to grow.
This story first appeared in Smartlife’s August 2019 issue here: SL Retirement homes