Ultimate guide to senior living in India

Why is the concept of senior living emerging in India?

The Census data of 2011 states that 15 million elderly Indians were living alone and almost three-fourths of these were women. As per 2015 report, The State of Elderly in India, published by non-profit organisation HelpAge India, there are more than 100 million senior citizens currently in India. By 2021, this number is expected to reach 143 million. A recent report by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) called Indian Senior Care Industry 2018, states that  “In about 30 years from now, the elderly population in India is expected to triple from 104 million in 2011 to 300 million in 2050, accounting for 18% of the total population in 2050.”

In the traditional model of care for senior citizens, it was the joint family structure along with the support of helpers that elderly used to be cared for. However with the breakdown of joint family structure and corporate jobs for most couples, the elderly in a nuclear family has only the support of the helpers or medically trained attendants. With nuclear family much more in vogue in metros and tier 1 cities young people in such families moving to big metros as well as foreign countries in search of better opportunities, most families now see the elderly parents left behind. Most of these elderly people live in a gated community but with very little social interaction. Their daily and medical needs are taken care of by themselves or helpers. But that needs constant follow-up with parties providing the services. Often this leads to an unpleasant situation for the eldery people.

To fill this gap and to provide a support base for elderly, the concept of senior living or senior active living, as some would like to call it,  is gradually emerging in India. Senior living is about living in a community. Senior living refers to housing for people above the age of 55, who are still independent and lead an active life. Such facilities offer convenient services, senior-friendly design features and access to social activities. Many facilities also offer medical support and holistic healthcare. The senior living is also further diversified into independent living and assisted living. The Independent living refers to housing and communities for active seniors who are healthy and independent, while assisted living is for seniors who require varied levels of medical support, such as caregivers and nursing. There are other concepts like CCRC (Continued Care Retirement Communities) which include both independent and assisted living. However these are still very few in India.

Some of the early successful senior living ventures in India

Ashiana Housing

One of the earliest Senior citizen living ventures in India was introduced by Ashiana Housing. Their first project in 2005 was independent living units in Bhiwadi, Rajasthan. However the concept soon evolved from independent living to assisted living as with time the same elderly may start needing medical assistance on a daily basis. Now all of Ashiana’s senior living projects in Chennai, Lavasa-Pune, Jaipur and Bhiwadi are built on the Continued Care Retirement Communities, concept.

Most Senior citizen living options allow for the purchase of housing units, though there is a rental model also. Ashiana has approximately 2,500 ready to move flats for senior citizens across their senior living projects, 1,600 of which are occupied till now. Most independent living units start from Rs 30 lakh to Rs 75 lakh, while assisted living usually start at deposit amount of more than Rs 5 lakh and approximately Rs 45,000 rental a month, which includes services like food, nursing, caregiving and furnished accommodation.

Covaicare

Covai Property Centre (I) Private Limited with registered brand CovaiCare has specializes in creation of Retirement Communities with Senior Care Centres, providing services and care to senior citizens since 2004. It has since then expanded to 17 senior care communities across India. They offer specialised services with assisted, palliative, memory, persons with disabilities care. COVAI offers three kinds of solutions to senior citizens. Construction of secure housing for senior citizens, providing services and care to the residents in their retirement communities and consultancy services to developers who wish to create senior care projects in India and abroad. Covai Care provides 130 dwellings in COVAI S3 Retirement Communities, Coimbatore, housing about 250 seniors. By 2018, there will be an additional 1100 senior families under COVAI Care from Bengaluru, Pune, Coimbatore and Goa.

The Covaicare homes are available for outright purchase based on the freehold model. The house/apartment is registered in your name and can be passed on to the legal heirs or sold at the prevailing market rates when you wish to. However, in case you are still working and wish to make an investment for post retired life, you can also rent out your dwelling through COVAI to a third party as long as one of the residents is above the age of 50. A structured payment schedule plan linked to construction helps seniors plan their investment.

Recently, COVAI has introduced a lease model in Coimbatore. The senior citizen above the age of 80  pay only a lease amount, which is lower than the property’s outright purchase value. The lessee pays only catering and maintenance charges every month. The legal heir gets back 85-90 percent of the money paid, depending upon the number of years the house was occupied by the senior citizen.

Other senior citizen housing projects in India

In India,some of the builders successfully active in the senior citizen housing projects  are Paranjape Schemes,Ashiana Group, Covai etc and a small handful of others like Eden Retirement Living, Antara senior living, Melur Meadows, The Golden Estate etc.Most of these companies are building or have built  premium living for senior citizens.

Most senior living or retirement homes are now coming up in smart cities like Dehradun, Pune, Mysore etc. The common factor among all these cities is the moderate climate all through the year. Clean air, moderate temperature and less crowd are the three criteria for any city selection by the senior citizens.

Eden Retirement Living, a company building senior living apartments in Purukul, Dehradun is one such organization which has built several residential apartments in Dehradun. Eden, your very own garden of serenity, security and contentment located in the beautiful locales of Dehradun, is easily accessible by roads, rail and air to Delhi and other major cities of the country. The Government has also announced the conversion of the Dehradun airport into an international airport soon allowing for even better accessibility. The spiritual centers of Haridwar and Rishikesh on the Ganges and the charming hill stations of Mussoorie and Dhanaulti are all within comfortable driving distance and offer pleasant excursions.

Eldercare, an organization of armed forces’ veterans, doctors and social work specialists provide personalized home care for senior citizens. It provides services like healthcare nurses to care for elderly at the comfort of their own home, dental treatment, relaxation services (Meditation, exercise,Rejuvenation,Yoga and stress management) , doctor home visits, ambulance support ,medical concierge facilities, post operative or trauma rehabilitation, bedridden Care, pharmacy support, emergency Support and critical care for those in need.  A military veteran is assigned as a care manager who is responsible for looking after the general and healthcare needs on a regular basis. Another organisation like Samvedna Senior Care provides dementia care and active ageing-related services at home and at their senior care centres.

How should one select a senior living accommodation?

A Moneylife Foundation survey showed that, out of 340 residents of retirement homes across India, about 53% were unhappy with the overall services provided and 61% were dissatisfied with medical services. The study also found cases of retirement homes not having their own ambulances or even wheelchairs which are the basic necessities in a senior living community. Many are located in remote areas away from hospitals. Still 73% seniors said they’d recommend living in retirement homes to others because these problems can be taken care of by implementing strict regulations. What lacks at the moment are absence of any government regulations and guidelines for these care homes. After several petitions in various courts of India, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation has finally come up with model guidelines for development & regulation of retirement homes in March 2019. One of the key guidelines is Retirement Homes should be aligned with the Principles, Guidelines, Norms etc. as prescribed in ‘National Building Code’ (NBC), ‘Model Building Bye Laws’ and ‘Harmonized Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Built Environment for persons with Disability and Elderly Persons’. For details refer to the website link  

https://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=189219

Location, weather, healthcare, facilities and reputation of the builder are five key factors to decide on the right choice for a senior living accommodation. Whether you are looking for a comfortable retirement home or a luxury apartment for senior citizens, one should consider the following factors before selecting any senior citizen housing project in India.

Location : Most senior living apartments are built in remote places in the outskirts of a city. The idea is to provide a noise and pollution free environment to the senior citizen. However it is important that the place is well connected via road transport and the facility provides quick transportation in case of emergency.

Weather :One should always settle down at a place where the weather is mild. Try avoiding places with extreme temperatures or weather conditions. Avoid coastal areas and places like Delhi NCR which has extremely hot and cold weather. Places with mild weather all through the year are Pune, Mysore, Dehradun, Bangalore etc.

Healthcare : Look for a facility which provides reliable medical care including hospital access , pharmacy and emergency medical services. If the facility is not offering hospital access, then ensure that a reputed hospital is easily accessible from the facility.

Facilities : You should ensure that the accommodation is easily accessible via ramps, elevators, etc.  The place should provide for proper laundry and nourishment services. Provision of common basic services like 24X7 water and electricity supply, maintenance of proper hygiene, indoor and outdoor recreation facilities, security and housekeeping, single window facilities and helpdesk, transportation assistance, yoga and fitness facilities, care giving facilities etc. Provision of basic medical, safety and security services like 24×7 on-site ambulance service, mandatory tie up with emergency facilities with the nearest hospitals and pharmacy, medical emergency room, regular medical check-up of residents, emergency alarm systems, trained and skilled security personnel, CCTV cameras in common areas, prior police verification of all the personnel deployed in the Retirement Homes. Retirement homes need to be friendly for differently abled. Provision of lifts, signage & signalling systems are mandatory.

Reputation of builder : Check the reputation of the builder. The land policy under which the land for the property is acquired. If the facility has the Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) approvals. If the facility follows the cooperative housing society norms. Check the RERA registration certificate of the property. Retirement Home apartments can only be sold after registration under the respective Real Estate Regulatory Authorities of the States/Union Territories.

Always read the fine print in all the documents pertaining to the retirement home. These projects offer a number of facilities, but they are expensive and increases your overall cost of service per month. Instead of focusing on the luxury aspects and premium fittings, you need to make sure that the project provides all the essential amenities within the campus. Do the math while buying a house in a project. The cost of the services will rise every year. Since you will be living off your savings, don’t overextend and buy into a project you can’t afford.

It’s equally important to conduct some background checks. Always go for a company that has been long developing senior citizens’ project and has some experience in the field. If long term maintenance services have been outsourced , examine the reputation of the service provider. In particular, find out about the service provider’s level of specialisation in geriatric care.

Visit the company’s other senior living projects and enquire from residents how satisfied they are. Find out if the developer is getting into the development of seniors’ housing projects for the long term, or whether he is undertaking a one-off project. A lot of developers may re-brand their project claiming these are senior living apartments while in reality these may be normal apartments situated in remote locations and for some odd reason not selling.

Another option will be to live on rent for some time before you actually buy the property.  That way you can verify things claimed by the builder first hand and if not satisfied, may ditch the project.

What are the three ways to buy a senior living accommodation?

Senior housing projects are tailored to the needs of the aged. One can choose from any of the three financial models on offer.

Outright sale

The dwellings in retirement projects are sold to customers above the age of 50 or 55 on a per sq ft basis. The apartment complex is professionally maintained with services offered on a monthly payment. A son/daughter aged less than 50 years can buy such a unit, but only a senior citizen can stay permanently in it.

Deposit model/ payback schemes

An upfront deposit, which is a percentage (60-70 %) of the sale value of the unit, is charged according to the size of the unit. Charges are levied on actuals for food, electricity, water, etc. The deposit charges are paid back to the successor with some deductions at death or end of lease.

Lifetime lease

A small deposit is charged on handing over the unit to the customer. A recurring monthly rent is levied for the duration of stay (rent, electricity and water charges). The rest of the facilities (food, health care, security and social engagements) are paid on actuals. The unit holder doesn’t have to pay property tax.

So the decision to shift to a senior living property is not one you can take lightly. Do due-diligence, conduct thorough research, and only then make the move. It is often seen that the transition to retirement and senior communities is easier when one is active, able to make friends and enjoy the community and activities, rather than at a time when you are in your seventies. So if you plan to move to an independent senior living community eventually, start the research and planning well in advance.

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