There are many good reasons for elders to choose senior living communities as their forever home.
Hidden beneath the bright shining lights of India’s “demographic dividend”, with more than half of India’s 1.3 billion population being under 25 years of age, lies a reality that needs to be confronted. India’s senior citizen population is already at 116 million. HelpAge India’s 2018 report states that by 2050, the senior citizen population will be equal to its under-18 population.
It is no surprise that in trying to address the “millennials”, brands, companies and policy makers jostling for the youth’s attention develop legislation and taxation with a thought process focused on the start-up culture, technological innovation and disruptive businesses. Amidst all of this, we seem to have almost forgotten about the seniors in our society.
The generation that has given their all to their families, to society and the nation, deserves better.
The seniors of today’s urban India do not confirm to the archetypal stereotype. They have done well professionally, educated their children well and seen them travel across the world to pursue their own careers. These seniors are not yet ready to settle into a soporific, sedentary lifestyle. Instead, they have a drive and a desire and increasingly the financial capability to pursue their passions well into their golden years.
The reality of loneliness
With their children relocated to different geographies, among the many health concerns that can befall seniors, loneliness is one of the most common and least discussed.
The statistics are damning. Almost every second elderly person (48.88 percent) is living with their spouse only and as many as one in every four (25.3 percent) are living alone.
Our seniors are faced with numerous physical, psychological and social role changes that challenge their sense of self and capacity to live happily. Further, increasing traffic, difficulty in parking, crowded public transport continuously decreases their ability and willingness to commute or travel to meet friends and family. This, in turn, adversely impacts their ability to remain socially engaged.
Communities comprising of homes, facilities and services that are designed to serve the changing needs of seniors over time are the ideal solution.
Trends in Senior Housing
Conventionally, such communities have been viewed in India as part of the real estate industry. While a home and facilities is an integral part of the solution, the success of such communities will lie in their ability to unconditionally love, respect and care for the residents in a manner completely differentiated from real estate offerings.
Senior housing will increasingly be positioned more as a service offering and less a a product offering. The activities planned during the day, the meals that are served and the health and wellness support that will allow seniors to remain physically, mentally, intellectually, spiritually and socially engaged, will play a crucial part in influencing purchase decision. The quality of caregiving would also become increasingly crucial.
Seniors today, particularly those in the 55+ age bracket, are more inclined to opt for the leasing model than the buying model. Hence the leasing model will emerge as an important segment in senior housing.
Also, technology will increasingly become an enabler in senior care, compelling the industry to think ahead of the curve in terms of how to leverage technology in a manner that meets the daily needs of baby boomers. Technology will not just aid safety devices and monitoring health, but will also reduce distances between ageing parents and their children.
And finally, accessible and reliable healthcare within senior housing communities will become a necessity rather than a facility. Medical support will go beyond community health centres emergency medical support as more and more seniors are opt for in-house treatment and consultation.
The ray of hope
The introduction and now active implementation of RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) guidelines has addressed one of the key concerns of the elderly. With increased transparency and the need for full disclosure, buyers and especially senior citizens, appreciate the reduction in uncertainty that previously existed. Not only can buyers rest assured that the quality of homes and facilities promised will be delivered, senior citizens are especially relieved to know that their home will be made available to them on time – their single most precious commodity.
Clearly, real estate developers have identified this as a growth sub-segment within their business portfolio. The three fastest growing segments in real estate today are: Co-working, Co-living and Senior Living Communities.
A survey of senior citizens conducted by a Delhi-based NGO Agewell Foundation found that while 68% of elders enjoyed ideological independence, 62% enjoyed physical independence..
Combined with the alarming statistic where almost 50% of the seniors are staying alone or with their spouse only for company, the need for them to be able to move into a Senior Living Community for increased care and social interaction cannot be overstated.
Internationally, a robust reverse mortgage facility provides seniors with the financial independence that they need. It is here that the Reserve Bank of India can take steps to support what is a national cause.
One of the guidelines, which if modified, will change the paradigm and make life easier for seniors without compromising on the interests of the bank, relates to the individual taking the reverse mortgage continuing to be the primary resident of that home. Cancelling this one clause unties the individual from the property which can then be rented out to generate additional income and support the individual as he moves into a smaller but better serviced and designed home within a community of peers to lead a more active and socially engaged lifestyle.
There are many good reasons for elders to choose senior living communities as their “forever home”. Equally, children who, for reasons beyond their control, cannot be personally present, need the senior living solution for their parents. Now, it is for the government and the financial policy makers to make the minor changes necessary to address this important need of the country.
(By Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities)