Housing for Senior Citizens in India – An Opportunity & Our Responsibility

Today, with nuclear family becoming the norm, more elders are staying alone. It is estimated that 3 out of every 10 elders are living alone, a trend that is more pronounced in the metros.  As a result, housing for the elderly has become as important as medical care and security. In fact good living spaces that inspire can increase happiness in the golden years.

According to a research report, it was found that there are 98 million elderly people in India, which is equal to the total population of Canada and UK put together. The total number of senior citizens will hit 173 million by 2025 and the 60+ population is estimated to touch 240 million by 2050. This growth in the numbers is creating a humongous opportunity in the senior citizen housing sector.

Unlike the western countries where the senior citizen housing has reached a certain level of maturity with specialized neighborhoods for the elderly, India provides an opportunity to developers to create solutions specific to India while learning from the best practices being followed across the world.

As a customer segment, senior citizens have evolving needs and wants. They are now more independent, economically secure, well-travelled, socially connected and have a clear understanding of the lifestyle they seek after retirement.  That is why we see an increasing number of well-heeled and better educated seniors in India. They now consider life after retirement as a break to spend more time with families, develop and pursue new interests, or even continue working or starting a new career.

A three-month survey, conducted in the last quarter of 2012 by AZ Research across 12 cities of India on a sample size 1,900 elders, showed interesting findings:

70% of elders polled said they want to move out into a home of their own.

42% of elders surveyed ranked security in the top three needs from a living space.

About 80% of elders surveyed were not happy with current security options and were concerned about the possibility of a security breach.

60 % of elders polled did not want to live in a home that does not have good security option.

More than 80% of the elders polled sought to sustain their lifestyle or improve it since they did not want to lead a retired life.

More than 75% of elders polled expressed a desire to be more active by wanting to socialize and engage in fun filled activities.

For a real estate developer interested in building homes for the elderly, it is important to take into consideration all the factors pointed above. At the same time considerations such as providing for healthcare accessibility, connectivity, an aesthetic ecosystem, and affordability are equally important. Bringing all of these components into a housing development for the elderly requires innovative thinking. All the more so because availability of land parcels is big issue in urban areas. Therefore, developers have to increasingly rely on vertical structures. In the semi-urban areas however, developers can still focus on constructing horizontal, low-rise houses.

Developers need to ensure that their housing projects address the evolved social ecosystem. Today, there exists an incredible opportunity for innovation in the housing segment catering for the seniors. Some developers have already started customizing real estate development to suit the needs of the elderly. Among the more popular of such solutions are:

24×7 security, Emergency call button

Concierge & housekeeping services

Chef and butler services

Larger living areas which facilitate free movement for wheel chairs and walkers

Anti-skid floors more particularly in the wet areas

Grab-bars in house

Sliding doors and windows

Internet enabled homes

Libraries, Reading Rooms, club houses with hobby facilities

Caretaker’s quarters

Step-free/ ramped access across the community area

Round the clock on-call medical facility

Tie-up with a nearest fully-equipped multi-specialty hospital

While real estate developers can work towards creating integrated developments that can blend in facilities like healthcare and community areas with living spaces, challenges like availability of trained and skilled manpower to cater to the specialized needs of senior citizens remain. But it is believed that with the segment gaining scale and maturity, solutions to these challenges will eventually emerge. However, it is essential to mention that the changes will happen faster if they are set in motion by the real estate fraternity itself.

About P. Sahel

As Vice Chairman of Lotus Greens, Sahel is responsible for giving directions on overall business strategy and key investments decisions of the firm. Being one of the founding members of Lotus Greens, Sahel has been instrumental in formulating various company policies, setting up systems and processes, and building a strong team of professionals. Prior to Lotus Greens, Sahel worked for more than 16 years in some of India’s largest and most respected real estate companies like Jones Lang LaSalle for 13 years as the Managing Director of the Markets & Solution Development and DLF prior to that. The views expressed are personal

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