If you thought that the silver years meant hanging up your boots and queuing up for the geriatrics ward, think again. Retirement has now become a time to socialise, bond, spend quality time with your spouse and in the company of like-minded friends. Refreshing, isn't it? That precisely is the idea behind retirement homes that are all set to re-define the way Indians look at ageing.
Nuclear families are the social reality of the day. It is impractical to expect a generation who has never lived in a joint family to take care of the elderly. Also many senior citizens cherish their independence and freedom. They are brimming with life and may not be keen on going through the rigours of raising grandchildren, while their children get busy with careers. It is the lure of minimum lifestyle adjustments and a sense of retaining their independence that makes retirement communities such a hit with people in their silver years.
For realtors, it is much like answering the need of the hour. In some projects, more than 50% of dwelling units are sold out even before the project is completed. On an average, retirement homes have 70% to 80% occupancy.
Says Col (retd) Achal Sridharan, MD, Covai Property Centre, "We have five retirement home projects in Coimbatore and all of them are sold out." He continues, "Three of these are operational. By 2012, Coimbatore will have over 400 dwelling units for the silver years' community. Interestingly, only 25% of the occupants in these projects are from in and around Coimbatore. A majority of Serene Retirement Communities, as we call our residents, are from the other parts of the country. There are retired bureaucrats, government officials and people with varied work experience and backgrounds. Most of them are from middle and upper middle class segments."
Covai Property Centre is also coming up with a senior care project in Chennai. About 220 dwelling units are being constructed for people in their silver years at Vandalur off GST Road near Chennai. The project is titled Serene Adinath. The real estate firm is in the process of signing a pact with a US-based health care firm to make provision for assisted living on their campus. Also, their joint venture project titled Serene Pelican is coming up in Pondicherry. The project will have 425 dwelling units. Similar projects in Hyderabad, Mysore and Pune are in the pipeline. The cost of dwelling units varies from 20-40 lakhs. Units from 550 sq ft to 1,600 sq ft and above are available. An occupant needs a minimum of 15,000 per month to meet expenses. The campus has a community kitchen. Here, the eligibility for occupancy is 50 years and above.
Says Ashwin Kumar Iyer, a sixth generation Chennaiite and marketing head for Covai Property Centre: "Retirement homes answer the quest for root connects. In today’s day and age, there are no villages to go back to. Joint families are fading fast and retirement homes fill the void spectacularly well. They provide emotional, financial and physical security at an age where being independent is a key priority."
While the ownership in Covai's senior care projects is devolved through a regular registered sale deed, some retirement communities even offer lease hold rights to their residents. Says BS Shankar, general manager, Clasic Kudumbam, "What makes our senior care project unique is the fact that the deposit given at the time of occupancy is 100% refundable. The occupants are sure that the sum is available to them till their death. In many cases, it goes to the nominees. In other words, only part of their savings is invested and that too is 100% refundable."
The occupancy in the case of Clasic Kudumbam is transferred by a lease deed. The dwelling units are of the same size and the minimum eligibility for being an applicant is 60 years. The project, located at Sholinganallur on Chennai's IT highway, is essentially meant for the elderly who are physically and financially independent. "The idea is to address the three basic needs of retirement communit - security, housekeeping and maintenance and hygienic food; all these are provided for the occupants and though medical facilities are available, assisted living can be arranged at an added cost," says Shankar.
According to a report, there are 14 realtors and developers across the country who are currently exploring the retirement homes segment, as against three to four a couple of years back. About 60% of homes are nuclear and nearly 9% of the country’s total population is above 60 years. A report by a real estate advisory firm states: "The status of seniors in the Indian market is experiencing a sea change, owing to their growing cohort size, augmented financial independence and change in mindset. They are no longer considered withdrawn, risk averse and financially dependent. The immense potential of this segment offers an array of opportunities to the Indian real estate market."
On ground zero, the observation is supported by the fact that there are approximately 4,000 dwelling units in various retirement homes across India - a figure that, according to real estate experts, may see a five-fold jump in the next three years.