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Arvind Jain, Managing Director – Pride Group
Technically speaking, retirement home projects are developed keeping in mind certain age groups, and should ideally be designed with special facilities to make life more comfortable for senior citizens. However, the on-ground interpretation in India has for the longest time been that any project and location that fits a certain budget and requirements is potentially a suitable ‘retirement home’.
In fact, a significant number of second homes purchased by Indians each year are bought to serve as potential retirement homes. The location of second homes is determined largely by how accessible they are from the buyer’s primary home, and how much natural ambience, comfort and infrastructure they offer.
However, retirement home projects are a residential property genre that must be conceived and developed specifically for the aged. This very precise concept is actually just beginning to gain traction on the Indian real estate market, and we are now seeing such projects coming up in and around cities like Pune, Kerala, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi NCR.
The common parameters employed by buyers retirement homes in India today include assurance of security, good accessibility, appeal quotient in terms of natural surroundings, as well as en suite facilities that actually speak to the needs of elderly residents. They need to be of true value to both to the aged residents as well as their families.
The retirement communities that are cropping up in more and more cities are following the Western blueprint, and are definitely more specialized and thoughtfully-planned undertakings.
Obviously, a residential complex that caters to the needs of the elderly must rise above commonly available facilities and amenities. They must encompass attended lifts and escalators, wheelchair ramps and hand railings, bathrooms equipped with specially-designed fittings that provide safety and ease of operation, and clubhouses with entertainment facilities that keep the physical limitation of the elderly in mind (such as more indoor games and sit-back entertainment systems).
Other recreational facilities of such projects include low-depth swimming pools with vigilant lifeguards, medical facilities such as fully-staffed Emergency Rooms, and ambulances and paramedical staff on call to facilitate speedy medical care at a larger hospital.
Importantly, retirement home projects need to be developed on the ‘everything within walking distance’ format. Provisions must be made so that residents are able to easily fulfill the basic requirements of living, such as groceries, laundry, etc. Transport must be available round the clock and the project administration must also take the initiative of arranging regular community outings, picnics, sightseeing tours, etc. Individual dwelling units in projects aimed squarely at senior citizens need to be equipped with electronic alarm systems that can be used instantly to call for help in case of sudden distress.
This is obviously a rather big list of requirements, and not all of the retirement home projects that we now see dotting the Indian real estate landscape are fully delivering on these. Overall, we are still not quite on par with the standards set by the West in terms of quality and services. As developers acquire better understanding of the needs of retirement homes as a specific real estate genre with its very specific requirements, the products they come up with will doubtlessly get more sophisticated.
The late emergence of specialized retirement home projects in India is due to various reasons. Until about a decade ago, elderly Indians – either by choice or by the wishes of their family – rarely left the nuclear fold of the family even in advanced old age. Also, very few senior citizens made financial provisions for their Golden Years to the extent of buying retirement homes. The concept of elderly people living independently, under custom-tailored circumstances, is quite normal in the West, but is still a relatively new and somewhat alien one in India.
However, sentiments and outlooks have changed considerably over the last few years. Many elderly people now have sufficient monetary reserves and have begun valuing their independence even after retirement. Naturally, many developers have begun catering to this emerging demand, and the concept is gaining ground rapidly.