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New-age homes

With joint families breaking up, seniors with enough savings are increasingly moving into homes built with their needs in mind. Vandana Ramnani reports.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2010 00:23 IST
Vandana Ramnani

Harish Chander Kharbanda retired from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in 1997 to his rented three-bedroom apartment in Gurgaon with his wife Indu, 63 and son.

But over the next 11 years, the 70-year-old Kharbanda grew increasingly tired of the water and power woes plaguing the upscale Delhi suburb.

Finally, in 2008, they moved into the Ashiana Group-promoted Ashiana Utsav, a retirement township in Bhiwadi, 70 km southwest of Delhi.

The move worked for him, and not just because of fewer power and water issues. "I have all facilities here — there’s a doctor and ambulance, and I can pay all my bills at the courier room," he says. Varinder Tikku, 63 and wife Neelima, 55 with their granddaughter at Ashiana Utsav, a retirement township in Bhiwadi, 70 km southwest of Delhi. Mohd Zakir/HT

Varinder Kumar Tikku, 63, bought an apartment in Ashiana Utsav after retiring from a cable company in Kolkata last year. “It is clean and meets all my needs,” he says.

With joint families breaking up and rising levels of affluence, senior citizens are increasingly moving into residential complexes built specifically with them in mind.

The cost: an upfront payment of Rs 5-50 lakh and a monthly maintenance of Rs 1,000-50,000.

Shrikant Paranjape, chairman of the Pune-based Paranjape Schemes Construction, has promoted Athashri Projects in Pune, perhaps the first senior citizen’s retirement resort in the country.

“Lots of seniors have the means to pay for such facilities. They are looking for support mechanisms to help them get on with their lives,” he says.

Subrahmanian Salem, 79, a former employee of Larsen & Toubro, and his wife Pushpa, 69, moved to the Athashri complex in 2003. “We have a resident doctor and several hospitals are close by. We also have a dedicated bus and an ambulance service within the complex,” Pushpa says.

“The idea is to create a better life for senior citizens through social togetherness,” adds Ankur Gupta, director, sales and marketing, Ashiana Utsav.

“These dwelling units enable elders to look at retirement from a whole new perspective — as the beginning of an active new lifestyle where they not are only well looked after but one in which they even get to deploy their skills gainfully in the service of society,” Saumyajit Roy, assistant vice president of Strategic Business Unit, Education, Healthcare, Senior Living at international property consultants Jones Lang Lasalle Meghraj (JLLM).

Typically, these dwelling units are 200-1,000 sq ft and cater to people who are well educated, well-off and well travelled. Many are being bought by NRIs for their parents.

“We believe that such continuing care retirement communities will emerge as a meaningful concept in India in the years ahead when the physical needs, loneliness or security concerns tell individuals that it’s time to move from their homes into communities specially designed for the elderly,” says L. Bradman Perkins, chairman, Perkins Eastman, a US-based architectural firm that specialises in designing houses and townships for seniors

Most builders sell houses or apartments outright and charge monthly maintenance that covers housekeeping, food, and sometimes, even medical care.

Some others offer a buyback scheme for these homes after the demise of the residents. This is usually written into the original sale agreement.

Care Homes by LIC Housing Finance (LICHF) follows this model. Senior citizens are given lifelong occupancy rights against an upfront lump sum payment. Monthly maintenance and other costs are charged separately.

The group has 98 cottages on 10 acres of land in Bangalore and has plans for similar projects in Bhubaneswar and Jaipur, says A.P. Singh, director and chief executive, LICHF.

Firms specialising in old-age homes also realise the need to take Indian contitions into account. “It’s important to Indianise some senior living concepts, get an idea of what may work and how it will be accepted socially and culturally in the Indian context to make such projects successful,” says JLLM’s Roy.