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Impact of COVID-19 on senior living communities in India

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had its repercussions on practically all areas of human existence, this crisis has particularly highlighted the need to provide a solution to the day-to-day challenges faced by our seniors.

As India seeks to unlock the senior care market, adequate measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the senior citizens have been put in place that have directly impacted demand and growth for the segment. Basically, COVID-19 has accelerated this line of business. Several elderly people do not live with their children, their caregivers have returned home and they have no domestic help particularly if they live in hotspots or containment zones. Maintaining a household is a challenge for most of them. In a senior living community, all their needs are taken care of, there are medical services at their disposal and there were some essential staff during the earlier stages of the pandemic residing within the compound to ensure nobody enters or exits making it a safe haven. Most importantly, there are friends to hang out with within the community.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had its repercussions on practically all areas of human existence, this crisis has particularly highlighted the need to provide a solution to the day-to-day challenges faced by our seniors. Senior citizens, who account for almost 10% of our population, are anxious because of the persistent warnings that the virus tends to be more severe among the elderly. However, it is not just the potential risk of infection that keeps them restless, there are several who are grappling with seclusion, constrained movement, and lack of finances. In scenarios such as this, a senior living community comes to their rescue.

Senior living is about healthy, comfortable and joyous living within a special community that provides the assistance and services that seniors need to enjoy an optimal living experience. There are many essential facilities that senior living communities deliver to their residents. Senior living communities, with the help of their in-house teams, are equipped to look after and provide their residents with services, essential items, medical supplies and security. Additionally, physical exercise and social engagements adhering to physical distancing norms adds up to offer a holistic well-being of the seniors. Digital interventions organized within the community allows for intellectual stimulation along with access to friends and family outside the community. This certainly boosts the resident’s morale and consequently their immunity levels.

Reforming the future of senior living in India

While the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a great deal of interest amongst people in senior living communities in India, the growth of this segment is also because of the fact that the population of senior citizens is increasing gradually. Today we have a healthier set of senior citizens who are keen to experiment in socializing and are always on the lookout of ways to keep themselves occupied and enrich their knowledge on any given topic.

Senior living communities are keen to focus on the fundamentals that facilitate the establishment and flourishing of a sustainable ecosystem for seniors. Currently, the discourse revolves around taking necessary steps to ensure the wellbeing and comfortable living of the elderly population and identify probable areas to derive economic value out of this segment.

Delving into how the industry has been performing during the COVID-19 pandemic so far, it would be appropriate to state that the public health crisis will reshape the future of senior living in India. This can be owed fundamentally to the fact that such homes will be greatly sought-after amid the present misgivings.

In line with the demand, the supply is also expected to increase on the outskirts of metros in addition to existing supply in tier II and III cities. With independent seniors becoming a new demography, traditional old-age homes are losing grip as people look for and can afford – self-sufficiency in well-equipped senior living community

This thought process and evolved preference is likely to accelerate demand for senior living as the pandemic has emphasized on the elderly’s welfare, security and need for companionship. The pandemic struggles for seniors have entailed struggling for basics, managing without house help and anxiety about existing and potential medical issues. The need for homes in a set up where these factors are taken care of is now undeniable, thus resulting in a rise in establishment of these communities. Senior living projects have sprung up mainly in the outskirts of the major cities and in tier II and III cities across the country. Bhiwadi in NCR, Neral in Mumbai, Devanahalli in Bengaluru are some of the prominent locations around tier I cities. Being pioneers of the category, Ashiana Housing has its state-of-the-art senior living facilities named Ashiana Nirmay in Bhiwadi, Ashiana Shubham in Chennai and Ashiana Utsav in Lavasa – Pune.

An enhanced living experience such as this for the elderly has resulted in increased interest for senior living communities. During COVID-19, enquiries for homes, both for rental and purchase, have seen the upward curve. Real estate developers are also looking to diversify their portfolio and offer a more differentiated product mix within their integrated townships. Hence, there is an increased desire to partner service providers who have the expertise in designing, marketing, serving and providing the healthcare needs for residents of a senior living community.

All these factors couple with increased regulatory and policy support from the government and investment from private sector entities, could perhaps reform senior living as a sunrise industry for India.

(By Ankur Gupta, Joint Managing Director, Ashiana Housing Ltd)

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