Housing A Retirement Plan

Updated: Jun 19 2004, 05:30am hrs
It was a market waiting to be tapped and Pune-based Paranjape Schemes Constructions Pvt Ltd is doing just that. It is not only the young who buy houses. The elderly too are looking for nests that are tailor-made to meet the demands of their age. A space of their own where they can live without compromising their independence or dignity. Chris-tened Athashree, the housing project pioneered by Paranjape Schemes, offers senior citizens an option of leading a cozy retired life. There is neither the loneliness nor the ignominy of living in old age homes here. The Athashree townships provides for a whole new way of life for them while remaining a profitable business proposition for the promoter & developer.

Retired bureaucrats, parents of NRIs, industrialists and ex-bankers call it their home. The success that Paranjape Schemes has met with in three of their projects in Pune has encouraged the promoters, Shashank Paranjape and Shrikant Paranjape, to not only go national but also go global with the concept. Then there are plans to go to San Jose, Los Angeles and New Jersey in 2005. The Indian community, the generation that went to the US in the 60s have hit the seventies and miss the community atmosphere back home. They are keen to have this kind of a project in the US and a 2005 debut for Athashree in US is on the cards. Paranjapes are setting up a regular housing project in Melbourne next month and taking Athashree to Australia is also in the pipeline. After reading about the project on the net, a Karachi-based businessman has invited the company to Pakistan.

Within the country, the next destination for the brothers Paranjape is Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Baroda. There are three Athashree projects with 400 homes in Pune are sold out. About 100 families have already occupied the homes.

The fourth of the Athashree project will take off in Pune this week. The project comprises 208 homes of one, two and three BHK homes from 650 sq ft to 980 sq ft at Rs 1,200 per sq.ft. It is expected to complete by 18 months. Land acquisition for the fifth project in Pune is on. Athashree will reach 1000 houses in Pune alone by end of 2005.

The self-sufficient Athashree projects are located far away from Punes crowded city environment but at fairly close proximity with the citys railway station, airport or major hospitals. It has been ensured that the occupants of the flats are able to do the daily chores as independently as possible. But every conceivable support is a phone call away whether it is cleaning the house or paying the bills. The projects have laundries, drugstores and hairdressers. All these services are extended to the residents in their homes. Libraries, gymnasium, landscaped gardens, amphitheatre, dining hall and a cafeteria that takes into consideration the residents diet is also available. They can have their own kitchen also.

Shashank Paranjape, MD, Paranjape Schemes, it is not just about providing houses but an entire lifestyle without worries. Now senior citizens are looking for their own space and get away from all the responsibilities they have shouldered so far, says Paranjape. They dont want to be dependent on anybody and like this concept, he adds. While anyone can buy the house, the occupants have to be above 55 years.

Creating the facility is not big thing but maintaining it and keeping up the standards is the main challenge, says Paranjape. Paranjape Schemes undertakes the entire responsibility for maintenance of the project. This responsibility in turn has been entrusted to Athashree Foundation for handling maintenance services. Support services are provided by specially trained skilled personnel. The Athashree Foun- dation also has plans to create a facility for training a workforce of about 200 to 300 persons who will be able to take care of the aging and ill. Athashree has tied up with hospitals in Pune and has ambulances for any emergencies. Now Paranjape is planning to come out with a Continuous Care Unit at Pashan in Pune for those who are dependent on help for their daily chore. Here the emphasis will be on providing medical services within the living areas. Mr Paranjape said the new project has been conceptualised keeping in mind the specific needs of the senior citizens who are expected to buy homes there. He said the experience of earlier Athashree projects has helped significantly in conceptualising the latest one. The bathrooms will have skid-free tiles as well as support railing and sliding doors wide enough to pass a wheel chair. Height of the kitchen platform is adjusted to make it possible to do cooking sitting in a chair or wheel chair.

All the buildings will have power back up generator facilities for the lifts. There will be a stretcher lift in each building. A modern business centre with all the latest communication capabilities and a putting ground for the golf enthusiasts has been provided. A swimming pool, planned at the new project, will have the facility of water therapy.

The biggest worry senior citizens have is the inevitable loss of a partner and life after that. This is the biggest advantage at Athashree. The entire community becomes an extended family and reduces the loneliness, says Mr Paranjape.

There are clubs formed by those interested in community celebrations and they also have their own newsletter. They aspire to become the voice of senior citizens in the country and get closely involved in policy matter concerning senior citizens.