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Senior Living In Post-COVID World

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Senior Living In Post-COVID World
Vishav - 06 October 2020

Sunil Malhotra (name changed), a retired banker, has been living with his wife in his New Delhi bungalow ever since his son moved to Australia two years ago. With the whole nation under lockdown earlier this year, it proved difficult for the old couple to manage most home chores. Since they also needed regular medical checkups due to geriatric issues, living in a bungalow was a handicap. This is the story of a large number of senior citizens who live independently. Since they need some extra care, a real estate segment devoted to their specific needs has been gaining popularity over the last few years.

Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis, which has made many realise the need for assisted-care homes, has increased the demand for this niche segment. However, the supply of such homes is quite limited with only 55 projects by top-12 players. It is no surprise then that Max India’s Antara Senior Living recently announced a Rs 300 crore investment in this segment over the next four years. These senior living projects are expected to come up in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai.

Amit Modi, Director, ABA Corp, and President (Elect), CREDAI Western UP, says the scale of migration of youth to metros and foreign countries for better education and job opportunities is rising. Joint families are already disintegrated into nuclear families, which makes the senior citizens crave for the right social circle. Also, they are vulnerable to crimes and health emergencies.

According to Rajit Mehta, CEO and MD of Antara, the pandemic has disrupted and created a new normal even for the senior care industry as all facilities had to be secured, appropriate interventions for mental health had to be introduced and new ways of engaging had to be thought through.

“The elderly population, especially those living alone, were forced to remain indoors without adequate support for their daily essentials and medical needs. In addition, they are one of the most vulnerable and high-risk demographic segments especially because of pre-existing conditions and comorbidities that require attention. This has led to an increased demand for dependable and professional services and solutions for seniors,” he explains.

Senior care facilities require state-of-the-art infrastructure and design capabilities to cater to the diverse and evolving needs. Unlike a traditional housing society or residences for elders, these facilities are designed keeping in mind the occupant’s age-specific mobility and lifestyle needs. The services provided are curated to ensure care, comfort and companionship. For example, such residences need to have rooms with no sharp edges, rounded walls, wheel chair access, anti-skid tiles, emergency button at a reachable height.

Globally, senior communities are an established and sought-after service, especially in markets such as Japan, Singapore, the US, and many parts of Europe, says Mehra. India is still at a nascent stage, but the demand is expected to pick up due to the fast-changing demographic, increasing life expectancy and the breakdown of traditional joint family and community living social systems.

According to the United Nations Population Fund and Help Age India estimate, India’s aged population will touch 173 million by 2026. As such, this asset class is a significant opportunity not only for developers but also investors, feels Anuj Puri, Chairman, ANAROCK Property Consultants.

“Independent seniors are becoming a new demography in India due to changing realities. They do not settle for traditional old-age homes as they prefer and can afford autonomy and the company of age peers in well-equipped retirement communities,” he says.

There are multiple real estate players in the country that work in the senior living space including Covai Care, Ashiana Senior Living, Paranjape Athashri, Columbia Pacific, Tata Housing and Mantri Primus, among others.  At the same time, there are independent players such as Antara, Golden Estates and Serene, which are offering select services to seniors. The cost of such homes is usually more than what one would spend on a normal house in the same locality. While the price range starts from Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 per square feet in tier-2 and tier-3 cities like Jaipur and Kodaikanal, the cost in a city like Gurgaon can go as high as Rs 17,000 per square feet. Antara Noida apartments have a price tag of Rs 7,300 per square feet costing anywhere between Rs 1.08 crore to Rs 2.22 crore for an apartment, depending on the size.

To get an idea of the concept and whether it suits their needs, one can start with renting the space. Another option is to go for a lifetime lease by paying a registration fee of a few lakhs and then monthly rent. However, only very few developers give these options. The third option is to buy the property shelling out anything between Rs 40 to Rs 50 lakh for a two-BHK upto Rs 8 crore for a lavish 6,000 square feet property in a hill station.

According to Mehta, senior living communities encourage people to lead a wholesome life without feeling the guilt of sacrificing and limiting happiness just because one has crossed a certain age. In addition, most seniors in India have age-related health issues that need greater attention and monitoring. Senior living facilities are equipped to cater to this need.

“Our first community at Dehradun, for example, is managed by a team of over 200 highly trained and dedicated professionals. Curated engagement activities, nutritionally assisted meals and an expansive wellness area ensure that all residents remain physically and cognitively stimulated. Equipped with all necessary medical equipment, it is possible to offer any kind of post-op care to our residents at the community itself,” he explains.

Sunil Malhotra is now considering investing in such a home. But the question is how to go about it. First and foremost, it is important to choose a trusted developer and operator. It is critical to live in a community-like environment.

Costs and place are two important considerations that need attention, advises Mehta. One should ask questions such as: would I be comfortable in that region? Is the infrastructure senior friendly? What are the ongoing monthly costs? Is there enough space inside the property to move around? What is the quality and nature of healthcare services being offered? Whether it offers recreational activities? What is the kind of food being offered? Can my family visit? How often and how comfortable it would it be for them? It is important that there is ample opportunity for social interactions in the company of like-minded people.

What Features To Look For:

  • Wheelchair access
  • Housekeeping services
  • Emergency services
  • Curated engagement activities
  • Nutritionally assisted meals
  • Healthcare services
  • Necessary medical equipment for post-op care

vishav@outlookindia.com

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