The concept of homes for the elderly in India is no longer restricted to poorly-managed desolate places. Swanky, resort-like elderly homes, once restricted to the West, can now be found in India too.
As the Raos, a couple entering their 70s, sit across the table, a sense of calm prevails on their faces. Surrounded by the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol and Nietzsche, overlooking green hillocks covered with mist and clouds, the couple are a picture of contentment. After having worked all their lives in the bureaucratic corridors of New Delhi, the couple wanted to move away from the hustle and bustle of city life. “All our lives, we were so involved with our work, we didn’t do anything else. After retiring, we started experiencing all kinds of problems, such as looking for a maid, running for groceries, checking the water and electrical supplies,” says CS Rao. The transition from Chanakyapuri to Noida was not merely residential, it was a lifestyle-based one. From living in a well-knit society, where every facility was just a step away, to one where they had to be on a constant look-out, the transition was not easy. A trip to their daughter’s school in Dehradun resulted in the Raos meeting someone who told them about Antara Senior Living in Dehradun.
A one-of-its-kind residential set-up, Antara is nestled in the mountain ranges of Dehradun. A brainchild of Tara Singh Vachani, daughter of Max founder Analjit Singh, the place has almost everything that couples like the Raos look for, from grocery to laundry, and security to serenity. Spread over 14 acres in Purukul, about 30 km from Dehradun, the community comprises high-quality facilities and services. It houses 196 apartments, sized between 1,434 sq ft and 6,097 sq ft. Interestingly, the Raos were among the first residents of Antara. “Even the digging had not started. But my wife liked the place because of the greenery and we made a decision,” recalls Rao.
Antara is one of the many senior living communities that have come up in the country. Anandam Retirement Community, in the foothills of Kodaikanal, is another among the many. It is an integrated township for the elderly that houses facilities such as a resort, spa, club, sports academy and food court, among others, and is just an hour’s drive from Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Developed by Bahri Estates, it is the first retirement home managed by Aamoksh One Eighty, a joint venture between Gurugram-based hospitality company Aamoksh Leisure Living and One Eighty, the second-largest private operator of retirement homes in the US. Epoch Elder Care, which provides high-quality assisted living homes for seniors in Gurugram and Pune, and was started in 2012, is another such example. So what makes places like Antara a good prospect for elderly couples?
The concept of senior living initially originated from the West and has become a flourishing entrepreneurial venture in countries such as the UK and the US. It might be in a nascent stage in India, but things are looking up fast. On the global scale, too, investors and real estate agents are bullish on such properties. In a recent report on Senior Housing News, Ventas, a US-based real estate development firm, said it sees more similarities than differences between the senior housing markets in the US and the UK, and is bullish on the prospects for growth across the pond.
In the case of India, 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. And for Antara, general manager Jishnu Veliyath, who has seen Antara since its inception, calls the journey ‘fruitful’. “To see your hardwork paying off is really rewarding. Another reason why I call it fruitful is because whatever was promised in theory, when it translates into reality and is experienced by the residents, it is an absolute delight,” he says.
What Veliyath says is validated when the Raos say they prefer to stay at Antara rather than Delhi. “Our bond with Delhi has yet not severed completely, but we are trying to move away from it. After coming here and experiencing all this, we fret when we have to travel to Delhi,” says Rao.
Customisation is key
The residential set-up has been designed keeping in mind the elderly. Whether it’s the hand railings on the pavements, or the construction material used at the entrance to avoid slippages, or the colour combination of the information kiosks, everything is customised.
One thing Antara has focused on is the concept of well-being. The environment, the public spaces, the common rooms, all are reflective of the holistic approach towards well-being. The facility has a huge wellness centre divided into two sections—one for recreational purposes, which includes a spa, salon and a swimming pool, while the other provides clinical facilities such as physiotherapy, consultation chambers for doctors and other medical facilities to take care of emergency situations. The facility also has in-house doctors, who not only take care of medical emergencies, but chart out the entire wellness concept for residents. Plus, there’s the easy accessibility to Max Hospital, which is 10 minutes away from the set-up.
The food here resembles home-cooked food, and with organic vegetables and spices, healthy eating is well promoted. Antara has also made good use of technological advancements. Every room has a panic button in case of any emergency. Also, all residents have access to an application called ‘My Antara’, where they can check their monthly bills, various activities at the centre and more.
Bang for your buck
Investment in a house or apartment, for that matter, is always a long-term one. And in Antara’s case, too, it is no different. All the in-built amenities that it provides cost you money. The price for a 1,400-sq-ft accommodation is about Rs 2 crore and it goes up to Rs 7 crore for a 6,000-sq-ft apartment.
Aamoksh, another retirement home in Kasauli, located an hour away from Chandigarh, has houses starting from Rs 74 lakh. Similarly, the price range of houses at Anandam range from Rs 35 lakh to Rs 95 lakh. But the residents at Antara don’t mind the high costs. For most of them, it is more of a silent retreat, where they can do things at their own pace. Satnam Jit Singh, another resident, says, “All my life I have travelled for work. One day, after retiring, it suddenly struck me as to what was my purpose of living in a place that was not healthy for me… A place I could not do much at. So I decided to make a move. And Antara was a good option.”
Launched in April this year, Antara has seen a good response. “Of the 196 residences, 50% have seen bookings. And of the 50% bookings, 25% have moved in,” Veliyath says. But what happens to the property if the resident passes away, or if they want to move out? “In such a case, the property comes back to the Antara community development. It is like any other lease model. If you want to give up your lease, you give it back to us and let us find you a suitable buyer,” Veliyath clarifies. “If someone has a spouse alive, they immediately inherit it. There is no rewriting of the lease agreement. It is instant,” Veliyath adds. However, it is different in case of a single occupant. If there is a co-signee who is 55 years of age, then a new lease is signed. And if there is no such co-signee, then the property is taken back by Antara.
The customisation in the services being provided at such communities has seeded the growth of many players in the senior care market. From bedside and toilet safety rails to foot warmers, talking clocks and nailcutters with magnifying glasses, 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.