When Akash Mahajan, a software engineer in Australia, heard from his parents that they planned to look for a ‘senior living’ complex, he was horrified. He rushed back to India to coax his parents to move in with him instead, but they refused. They didn’t want to leave the country, and Akash was heart-broken because he felt they didn’t think he could take care of them.
But when he visited the complex where his parents planned to move, he understood why they had made that decision.
“I was taken aback by the amount of planning and thought put into the complex regarding every possible need of a senior citizen,” says Mahajan. “The residences were cheerful and well-planned. In no way was this place like an old age home.”
Old age has always been associated with slowing down. But this no longer holds true for many senior citizens, most of whom are healthy and active even long after retirement and are looking forward to enjoying life, fulfilling old passions and remaining independent.
This has created a demand for focused and specialised living complexes where senior citizens can be totally independent, and enjoy the company of people in a similar age bracket. Inspired by the west, ‘senior living’ or retirement homes are fast becoming an accepted norm in India, with real estate developers offering specialised and luxurious complexes for seniors with an emphasis on comfort, security, health and ease of access.
“With the rise of nuclear families, there is a growing realisation that families are no longer equipped to take care of their elders,” says Tara Singh Vachani, MD, CEO, Antara Senior Living, which has a complex near Dehradun. “In this environment, concepts like senior living are becoming more acceptable. We see huge potential in serving this demography.”
Ankur Gupta, joint managing director of Ashiana Housing, says: “Research has shown that loneliness can play havoc with a person’s health and lead to depression. It also increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. So living in a residential complex with like-minded people can promote wellness of mind, body and soul. Another important feature of such a complex is safety and security, which is a growing concern for senior citizens.”
The idea of living an independent life with the comfort of having every essential service at your call is what made the Nehrus currently living in Gurugram (Gurgaon) opt for Antara’s complex at Dehradun, which will open soon for residents. “We had been toying with the idea of living in a complex like this for quite a few years as we are keen to enjoy an independent life with people from the same age group,” explains Neena Nehru, 70. “Besides a lovely location, this complex offers us the opportunity to continue with the life of our choice: I can work in the art studio, and my husband plans to join the gym and return to his old love for music. And the option of assisted services will free me from the hassle of household chores.”
Reva Singh, 55, the editor of a Sommelier India, a wine magazine, always wanted to spend the second innings of her life on her own terms, which is why she plans to move away from her Delhi joint family and live in a retirement home.
“I’d rather make my own decisions than depend upon decisions made by my children,” says Singh, who has signed up for Antara. “A place like this is like having a service apartment, except that it is geared for older people. A lot of old people are fiercely independent, and don’t want to live with their children at all. In fact, in several cases, I have seen a rapid deterioration in people’s health when they were forced to leave their familiar surroundings and live with their children. I’m not going to wait till I’m forced to live in a place like this due to circumstances. I’m going to do this right now, when I can enjoy my life.”
While a majority of people find it emotionally difficult to let their elderly parents live away from them, others have realised the importance of letting their parents remain independent.
“When my father first spoke to us about moving to a senior living complex, my sister and I were shocked,” says Ridhi Chowla, based in Mumbai. “We refused to agree to their decision because we worried about their health and felt that they would be lonely. But all our fears were put to rest when we actually visited them at Ashiana, the complex at Bhiwadi, and saw how happy they were. My father took part in a dance show for the first time, and my mother went for spa services after a long time. I realised that both of them need this kind of an environment to enjoy this phase of their life.”
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From HT Brunch, August 21
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