Abode for Silver years
A growing number of senior citizens are choosing to live in apartments that provide for their needs for security, medical care, company and independence. Shubhra Saini explores the emergence of this new asset class in India.
Unlike western countries where the senior living industry has gained maturity, India provides an opportunity to developers, service providers, healthcare players and operators to create solutions specific to India while leveraging learning from across the world.
With an overall enhancement of the standard of living, the average life expectancy in India has increased to 65.3 years for women and 62.3 for men. This has given an impetus to assisted senior living sector. Another factor for senior living concept coming of age is economic boom that is creating a new social landscape. Pune, Goa, Bengaluru, Kochi and even smaller towns such as Matheran, Ooty and Neral, are witnessing emergence of such projects.
In contrast to senior living in the west, the concept of housing for seniors as a specific asset class in India continues to have social stigma associated with it which has restricted the growth of the sector at large.
Growing interest of developers
It is anticipated that the elders in India would increase both in absolute numbers and relative strength, indicating a gradual swing to a senior population. Besides growth in sheer numbers, seniors are also evolving as a customer segment and have needs and wants, which are different from seniors in earlier times. A significant section of seniors today are independent, financially stable, well-travelled, socially connected, and as a result have well developed thoughts of how they want to spend time after retirement.
Seniors now consider life after retirement as an opportunity to spend more time with families, pursue hobbies, develop new interests or even continue working or starting a new career. While it is true that the seniors are more independent and better equipped to take decisions post their retirement, it is equally correct to say that their needs are not rightly understood and therefore not met appropriately by both public and private sector at large. The senior community presents a tremendous opportunity to service providers and entrepreneurs to not only innovate on their housing needs but addressing their various lifestyle service and product needs.
Geographically, senior living projects are coming up in the suburbs of all key metros in the country and in some selected destinations such as Coimbatore, Goa and Dehradun which have traditionally been retirement towns.
Majority of the developments have 50-100 units in the form of residential complexes, with larger ones having over 400 units. The typology of units varies from 1 BHK-3 BHK units, villas and studio apartments ranging from 500sqft to 2,500sqft, super built-up area. These units are offered under various sale models – outright sale, upfront deposit and lease. Most of the projects are at the affordable levels however, there has been a recent shift with more mid and high-end projects being launched in the market showing signs of maturity of the sector and growing confidence among the developers to launch niche projects.
Bengaluru based realty developer Mantri has two types of senior living projects in Kanakapura -Primus Eden available on lease and Primus Reflection available at outright purchase. The company has leased 45-50 of its 75 apartments, and sold about 80 apartments in Reflection. It provides a food and beverages centre, medical facility, concierge, daily housekeeping and gymnasium. “We haven’t taken a real estate approach but a services approach, as these are not old age homes but a way to free up the retirement phase for individuals. The company has tied up with Apollo and Nationwide to provide doctors, nurses, caregivers and physiotherapists on the premises,” said Adarsh Narahari, Managing Director, Mantri Primus.
Another developer building successful of senior living housing projects is development is Delhi based Ashiana Housing Ltd, with projects in Bhiwadi, Jaipur and Lavasa. Ankur Gupta, Joint Managing Director commented, “Our Senior Living projects are planned with open green spaces, water bodies and aesthetically designed walking tracks. There is an activity centre with plenty of indoor and outdoor activities, library, computers centre and arts and crafts workshop among other amenities. Most importantly, all the projects have a single gated entry and security guards are present round the clock, patrolling the area and available to assist residents as and when required.”
Apart from current older generation, even the proud go-getter younger generation is trying to ensure its sunset days are spent in comfort and independently. This mind-set has given momentum to the senior living real-estate as an asset class among developers across the country. Vedaanta Senior Living in NCR, Impact Senior Living Estates, Chandigarh, Covai Properties, Coimbatore, Athashri by Paranjape Schemes in Pune, Parkside Retirement Homes, Brigade Orchards and Serene Living by Ozone, both in Bengaluru and Nest by Oasis Senior Living in Bhopal are just some of the many.
Tata Housing’s Riva Residences in Bengaluru consist of 187 units ranging from 2-3 BHK apartments. Rajeeb Dash, Head Corporate Marketing, Tata Housing Development Company elaborating on the project mentioned, “This is the first senior living project by Tata Housing. The complex has been planned meticulously with modern utility-based design facilities, services and ambience, to specially cater to the requirement of its senior residents. We have also tied up with Apollo for health services. To provide financial support, Tata Capital, Central Bank and Axis bank have been roped in for providing loans to potential customers. In our experience, the project has spurred an increasing demand in senior living projects and the numbers will only go up in the coming years.”
The Critical Elements
Seniors staying alone in Indian cities in traditional housing expose themselves to risk of urban crime besides taking on the myriad hassles of day-to-day living. Ageing is usually accompanied by various physical and mental ailments. Thus, healthcare considerations must be kept paramount when looking at housing solutions for seniors.
In India, healthcare groups can play an active role in the senior living industry either venturing into the space on their own or partnering with corporate developers serious on the senior living sector from a long term perspective.
The aged population faces numerous issues, typical of the sunset years of their lives. The growing sense of insecurity, loneliness, fear of obsolescence within the family is increasing. Needs of the Senior Population physical disability, difficulty to access transport, quality healthcare and geriatric care, complexity in conducting the daily chores of family life are some of the several issues that the aged often face. These, compounded by poor accessibility to government and other support systems, insurance and legal assistance create severe problems for seniors.
The real estate environment being developed for seniors should recognize and address these issues to ensure comfort to and compatibility. It should also keep in mind sensitivities to unique Indian cultural aspects regarding how seniors are treated in India to uphold their sense of respect and self-esteem. Talking about the special need that senior living centres should cater to, Gupta, said, “Amenities related to the safety and security of senior citizens is of prime importance followed by care facilities like on-call doctors, support staff and 24 hours ambulance. Small additions like grab grills and anti-slip tiling, emergency call system, LPG gas detectors are the other requisite features. The location strategy for the projects should be customer-driven thereby offering pollution-free and peaceful surroundings, away from the main city yet easily accessible and well connected to the important places like hospitals, airports etc.”
“There key considerations are healthcare facilities and accessibility. It is important to understand the level of care needed for senior members. Properties need to also provide staff who can offer professional wellbeing of the residents,” added Dash.
Explaining the financial challenges facing the Senior citizens Narhari said, “Globally, the lease model is predominant, because seniors typically mortgage their last home on a reverse mortgage to fund their retirement home. However, the cost of borrowing in India is as high as 14-15 per cent, making the lease model financially difficult. To keep the financial burden low, we have refundable deposit for lease model and residents can either just pay a ‘per square foot’ maintenance fee every month or pay for an service on demand such as cleaning and cooking, or a nurse, if disabled or bedridden.”
According to Shaon Sikta Sengupta, Director- Business Development & Zonal Head, North & East India, Edifice architectural firm, “The material choices for these projects should enable the elderly to live in a safe, comfortable and hassle-free environment. Dedicated senior care requires trained manpower and human resources, the full array from psychotherapists, doctors trained in geriatric care to paramedical staff. Internationally, senior living projects are professionally-managed and run by trained personnel dedicated to this sector and not persons sourced from the Healthcare industry.”
Constraints & Growth
In spite of the dire need of quality senior living developments, the overall sector growth is slow and uneven across the country. Most of the projects are present in Western and Southern regions in and around metro cities and some coming up in tier 2 and tier 3 cities as well. North region is a close follow-up. The misperception about senior living facilities, social stigma attached to the concept- still seen as old age homes and the limited funding options available for senior citizens to finance their sunset housing are the major challenges in the quantum growth of the segment.
Diminishing finances post-retirement and high operating expenditures of a senior housing community are the major deterrent for senior citizens to opt for senior living complexes. Rental and capital values differ considering whether it is active senior living, assisted living or hospice care for terminally ill.
Still, the senior living industry in India is poised for significant growth in the coming years. A PHD Chamber of Commerce study reveals that the senior housing sector in India is estimated to reach upto $7.7 billion by 2030.
The demand is increasing but the supply of quality projects is low as there are very few players in the market. The modern nuclear families as well as the NRI segment are proactively looking at investing in this asset class of real-estate. The rising financial capability of senior citizens has also increased the demand in the market.
With the breakdown of the traditional concept of families, and with an increase in disposable incomes, the senior community are financially well-equipped and do not tend to depend on family members to pursue their interests or dreams post retirement. Additionally senior NRIs with a cosmopolitan outlook require certain level of services and seek a lifestyle that provides them good infrastructure, post retirement. This has opened up opportunities for developers to develop senior housing projects on a large scale. The immediate need for the segment is to strengthen the awareness among the senior populations and for the financial institutions to introduce special schemes for the seniors to enable them to invest in their abodes of silver years.