1. Coming of age

Coming of age

With a change in mindsets, the elderly today no longer want to be a burden on their children. In sync with this demand is the senior living and care industry with luxury retirement homes and customised products and platforms for the elderly

By: | Published: February 7, 2016 12:03 AM

FOR 65-year-old Hari Prasad Krishnan, the search for a retirement home began well before his retirement in 2010. The lecturer of French language from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, started looking for a suitable place for himself and his wife, a former geography professor, in 2007. But it was only in 2010 that he found what he was looking for. Seeking a peaceful place where they could experience solitude, his search led him to the Anandam Retirement Community, an integrated township for the elderly that houses facilities such as a resort, spa, club, sports academy, food court, among others, in the Kodaikanal foothills. They booked a house in September 2010 and were handed the keys in 2014.

The township, which has 169 independent villas and 70 row houses, is an hour’s drive from Madurai. “I was a lecturer for 15 years. And that was after my stint as a government servant with the treasury and accounts department. I opted for voluntary retirement and started teaching French in 1995. Both our daughters are married and settled in Chennai, and my wife and I decided that we did not want to disturb them for further care,” Krishnan says.

“During our first visit to the location in July 2010, we found the ambience to be very pleasant. Our kids approved the location too, and asked us to go ahead,” adds Krishnan, who loves trekking to nearby villages. “We feel happy here. The location is good health-wise too… there’s no pollution,” he says, adding that even though they still have a home in Madurai, they don’t like going there any more. “Even our grandchildren prefer to come and stay with us here during vacations.” The price range of the houses at Anandam range from R35 lakh to R95 lakh.

The Anandam Retirement Community, constructed by real estate developer Bahri Estates, is the first retirement home managed by Aamoksh One Eighty, a joint venture between Gurgaon-based hospitality company Aamoksh Leisure Living and One Eighty, the second-largest private operator of retirement homes in the US.

The Census data of 2011 revealed that almost 15 million elderly Indians were living alone and almost three-fourths of these were women. As per a 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. And by 2021, this number is expected to reach 143 million. Owing to these huge numbers, the country has seen the emergence of many players in the senior living and care sector. These players not only offer luxurious living communities optimised for the needs of senior citizens, but specialised products, exclusive platforms and communities as well, which connect the elderly with information and services they might need.

Luxury abodes

At Anandam, Aamoksh One Eighty provides fully-serviced and maintained row houses and villas, ensuring seniors don’t have to worry about the hassles of daily household chores. From activity centres to clubhouse facilities, Anandam makes sure that the life of seniors is full of fun, excitement and, most importantly, good health—they are provided personal care assistance and medication services as well. “Some key things we validate (while deciding on a location for a community) are access to medical facilities and entertainment, distance from the nearest railway station/airport, manpower availability for servicing the campus, etc,” says Sanjay Lakhotia, founder and director, Aamoksh One Eighty.

“We get a lot of requests (from senior citizens) from Dehradun, Coimbatore, Pune, Bengaluru, Delhi-NCR, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Kolkata to set up similar retirement homes there,” he says. The company is currently working on its second senior living project in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh. An hour’s drive from Chandigarh, the Aamoksh @Kasauli Retirement Home, set to open later this year, will house 88 units, with prices starting from R74 lakh.

Another abode for senior citizens in the country is Antara Senior Living in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. The project, by Antara Senior Living, a fully-owned subsidiary of multi-business corporate Max India Group, is in advanced stages of construction—50% of the 200 apartments have already been booked—and plans to become operational later this year.

Priced between R1.6 crore and R8 crore, the apartments range from 1,400 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft in size. “Landscaped gardens, clean air untainted by the effluents of a busy city, a peaceful atmosphere, etc, all make for the perfect environment to enjoy life. The location of our project was chosen very carefully keeping all this in mind,” says Tara Singh Vachani, CEO, Antara Senior Living, adding, “The current estimated demand for senior housing in India is approximately three lakh units.”

However, there are a lot of challenges in building integrated senior living communities since it’s a largely unorganised industry. “The availability of trained manpower is a key issue, as there are no traditionally-trained people to service the needs of seniors. A huge amount needs to be invested to train manpower and equip them to manage services for seniors,” says Lakhotia of Aamoksh.

There are other challenges as well. Some players say there are a lot of emotional and social obstacles as well. “One of the biggest challenges is the social stigma that surrounds the idea of elderly people moving out of their homes,” says Neha Sinha, CEO, Epoch Elder Care, which provides high-quality assisted living homes for seniors in Gurgaon and Pune.

Started in 2012 by entrepreneur Kabir Chadha, Epoch Elder Care also provides nursing and attendant care, security, as well as social activities for senior citizens. “When we started, we were very clear that we did not want to get into old-age homes. One of the biggest criteria was that our homes need to be close to a multi-speciality hospital. We are very particular about the furnishings too. The rooms need to be bright and cheerful with ample sunlight. And obviously, they need to be elderly-friendly,” says Sinha.

Customised services

Another sector that has seen the emergence of many players in India is the senior care market. From bedside and toilet safety rails to foot warmers, talking clocks and nailcutters with magnifying glass, these players are bringing out many senior-friendly customised products. “In India, the senior care industry is at a very nascent stage. Hence the products are rather limited compared to other more evolved markets,” says Rahul Upadhyay, founder, Senior Shelf, an online marketplace for health- and lifestyle-related products for the elderly. “Toilet safety products are quite in demand though. As per a recent report by the US Centre for Disease Control, almost one in three senior citizens suffer from falls in the bathroom. Toilet safety rails, grab bars, shower benches, etc, are some products that can help in preventing these falls.”

Launched in 2014, the Mumbai-based online aggregator, which delivers all over India, has witnessed good traction from urban centres.

The idea for Senior Shelf struck Upadhyay three years ago when his mother fell at her home in Patna. Working in Mumbai at that time, Upadhyay rushed home to take care of things. Among other essentials he had to purchase was a blood pressure machine his mother could use at home. “I had to spend almost five hours looking for a blood pressure machine. That set me thinking about the plight of the elderly who aren’t able to access products they require even in a large city,” says the 43-year-old.

Another problem is a lack of awareness of services. In times of crisis, the elderly are often left looking for help. And this is the gap that some exclusive online and offline senior citizen communities are looking to fill by connecting caregivers to senior citizens. Bengaluru-based start-up Beautiful Years, for instance, focuses on three verticals on its website: building a community of caregivers and seniors, listing services, and an e-shop for elderly-friendly products. It was started in 2015 by Vladi Ruppo, who is also the CEO. Originally from St Petersburg, Russia, Ruppo has prior work experience in Israel, but has been in Bengaluru for the past 10-15 years.

Having travelled the world, the 52-year-old technologist realised that a sector catering exclusively to the needs of senior citizens was accessible in the West, but didn’t exist in India. Using his background in technology, he started Beautiful Years with the aim of educating people and creating more awareness about senior care in the country.

Issues remain

Barring the lack of awareness, there are a host of other issues as well. “One recurring problem is the lack of companionship or peer groups. Also, in our experience, most active seniors do not wish to be identified just by their age and are open to exploring newer opportunities to make their lives more exciting,” says Reshmi Chakraborty, co-founder, Silver Talkies, an online platform for senior-specific content and events. “While we try to provide such avenues in the form of special events and workshops, there are still issues such as mobility, ill health and price-consciousness that remain.”

Started in 2011 as a blog for seniors by Chakraborty, a former journalist, and Nidhi Chawla, who has worked in the financial services sector, Silver Talkies is now a comprehensive website featuring articles and blogs—on issues like health and nutrition, finances, travelogues, etc—relevant to the 60-plus age group. You can also find service providers and experts in various areas on the website.

There are other gaps as well. “Medical care and food need a little more attention,” says Anandam Retirement Community resident Krishnan. “Some focus should also be laid on recreational facilities. Indoor games should be there too.” An avid golfer, Krishnan also hopes to get back to playing the sport. “My passion for golf remains intact. I feel like I am going to live for many years, so I can’t wait to play the sport regularly again.”

Clearly, for some, life begins after retirement.

Some key things we validate (while deciding on a location for a senior-living community) are access to medical facilities and entertainment, distance from the nearest railway station/airport, manpower availability for servicing the campus, etc. The availability of trained manpower is a key issue, as there are no traditionally-trained people to service the needs of seniors
Sanjay Lakhotia
Founder & director, Aamoksh One Eighty, which manages retirement homes

Landscaped gardens, clean air untainted by the effluents of a busy city, a peaceful atmosphere, etc, all make for the perfect environment to enjoy life. The location of our project was chosen very carefully keeping all this  in mind. The current estimated demand for senior housing in India is approximately three lakh units.

Tara Singh Vachani, CEO, Antara Senior Living, a provider of retirement homes

One of the biggest criteria (for us) was that our homes need to be close to a multi-speciality hospital. We are very particular about furnishings too. The rooms need to be bright and cheerful, with ample sunlight. And obviously, they need to be elderly-friendly.
Neha Sinha
CEO, Epoch Elder Care, which provides assisted living homes for seniors

In India, the senior care industry is at a very nascent stage. Hence the products are rather limited. Toilet safety products are quite in demand though… Grab bars, shower benches, etc, are some products that can help in preventing falls
Rahul Upadhyay
Founder, Senior Shelf, an online marketplace for health- and lifestyle-related products for the elderly

 

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