Old age, new home

Assisted living complexes that provide independence with companionship to retired people are drawing builders and buyers in large numbers

Rakesh Rai | Print Edition: December 28, 2006

Last year 68-year-old S.M. Mahajan and his wife Krishna decided to sell their four-bedroom house in Rajouri Garden, Delhi and move to Ashiana Utsav, a retirement commune in Bhiwadi. The reasons were simple: their three children had married and moved out. The upkeep of the apartment "too big for them anyway" and property taxes was putting an unnecessary strain on their savings. And what better option than to move to a retirement village away from the hustle-bustle of urban living. The icing is there is always someone to look after them, especially his ailing wife, and their children could visit them whenever they wanted to. Mahajan, who retired as a regional manager with a German MNC, has never regretted his decision.

The Mahajans represent a growing and lucrative segment in the Indian real estate business. Niche housing projects-in this case targeting the aged-is finding favour both among promoters and buyers. With the number of retired professionals burgeoning, there is growing demand for retirement colonies or villages.

The demand is not limited to the 55-plus middle class financially secure population, who prefer to maintain their independent lifestyle without being a burden on their children but also to their children, who for professional compulsions have to live far away from their parents. For both parents and children buying a cottage or an apartment is a win-win situation.

For the elderly these new age housing projects do not have the social stigma traditionally attached to old age homes. With facilities ranging from anti-skid floor tiles to on-call medical professionals to libraries, the elderly find that living in these communities provides them with camaraderie and security without sacrificing their personal space. For the children this new concept assuages their guilt, knowing that their parents are well looked after.

The potential demand for assisted living retirement houses is huge. The number of 60-plus individuals is expected to cross 10 crore by 2013, up from 7.7 crore in 2001. "Such elders are not only endemic in lower income groups but also in higher and middle income groups, who can afford to live in these townships," says B.N. Samal, director and CEO, LIC HFL Care Homes. "The increase in pension policies of LIC is an indicator of this vast potential. The elderly population of our country by 2047 is likely to touch our total population of 1947," he says.

With spending power, the demand for well-appointed retirement communities is expectedly on the rise. "The basic reason for a breed of developers getting into retirement homes is that most of the 60-plus population is cash rich. Even a lower middle class retiree will have at least Rs 2 lakh that he has saved for his retirement. This has been recognised by the developers", says Agewell Foundation's Himanshu Rath.

There is also the bonus of a large NRI community interested in such projects either for themselves or for their parents who stay in India. In fact, there are some projects like the Royal Palms’ Bhairavi in Bangalore, that specially targets the NRI community. Several developers have taken advantage of this market to provide such projects in Mumbai, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Pune, Chennai and even in places like Kochi and Bhubaneshwar.

Prospective buyers have a variety of models to choose from. The Senior Citizens’ Resort in Chennai is a cluster of beautiful cottages where residents are almost fully independent. A common diningarea and a weekly doctor visit is area and a weekly doctor visit is what makes it different from any ordinary residential colony. On the other hand, Icon in Noida is like a large apartment block, with a central reception, kitchen, dining room, library, clinic and community hall.

 LocationBhiwadi, NCR Neral, Mumbai  Hadapsar, Pune Bangalore Kandanadu, Kochi


 Cost Rs 17-22 lakh Rs 8-10 lakh Rs 10-15 lakh Rs 7-12 lakhRs 1.5-3 lakh  Rs 6-10 lakh
 Payment 10% upfront Rs 2 lakh upfront Rs 25,000 upfront50% upfront  Rent or buy upfront Upfront
 Loan optionTie-ups with ICICI and HDFC  50% loan from Dignity None From LIC Housing None None
Other charges Maintenance and admin costs Rs 3,500 p.m. 

Rs 1.5 lakh refundable deposit 

Rs 4,000 p.m.  Rs 550 p.m Rs 4,400 p.m.
 Paid extras 24-hour medical assistance Hospital, guest house   Visiting doctors Hospital,guest house car with driver, recreational facilities 

Hospital, car with driver


Electricity, phone, guest house


Free to sellor rent 

Reverts to Dignity  Can bequeath Can bequeath Can bequeath Lifetime lease


Facilities inside these apartments/ cottages include hand rails along walls, non-skid floor tiles, fully furnished rooms, running water, and power and water backup among others.

Another reason for private developers getting into the act is the non-availability of independent living options for the elderly. Even if we suppose that some of these people would be willing to go to an old age home, there would be no space for them. For an 8-crore population we just have a 1,000-odd old age homes with a capacity of 25 each. "When you look around the country, retirement communities, providing for people who have lived well all their lives, offering a hygienic environment, clean food, good ambience and intellectual companionship in terms of a good peer group are very hard to come by", says Rajesh Shankar, director, Clasic Kudumbam, a project for senior citizens in Chennai.

 R Thiruvengadam with wife
 PAID: Rs 8 lakh for a two-bedroom flat in Clasic
Kudumbam, Chennai
 PRE-RETIREMENT: Director, Library Services, USIS
WHY RETIREMENT VILLAGE: After children moved
abroad, maintaining the house became a problem. Checked
out several retirement homes before settling for one closer
home. Has been living here for the past three years

 Om Prasad with wife
 PAID: Rs 14 lakh for a two-bedroom flat in Ashiana Utsav,
PRE-RETIREMENT: Scientist with Indian Rayon 
WHY RETIREMENT VILLAGE:Wanted to stay close
to where his daughter had settled down (Gurgaon) after
wife suffered partial paralysis. Has been living in this colony
from June this year 


 B.D. Datar with wife
PAID: Rs 12 lakh for a three-bedroom flat in Athashri,
PRE-RETIREMENT: Vice-president, Mafatlal 
WHY RETIREMENT VILLAGE: Both children married
and settled outside Mumbai.Wanted to maintain his earlier
lifestyle in a less congested place where daily needs would
be taken care of 


What happens to the unit when the senior citizen passes away? Most promoters allow these units to be bequeathed to heirs, who in turn can rent it out to only senior citizens. Some promoters also have the option to buy back these units.

However, it will continue to be a niche market for some time because of the long-term involvement needed for such projects. "The designing and launching of a senior citizens’ project is easy but the management and maintenance are the toughest part and need continued engagement on the part of the developer. He can’t just sell it off and move out like in other residential projects," says Shashank Paranjape of Paranjape Schemes which came up with the Athashri project in Pune. The designing and launch is the easier part but the services is what is difficult and unless there is a proper synchronisation of the two, the system is bound to crash.

Yet it is beyond doubt that assisted living is a concept whose time has come. For a growing proportion of senior citizens in India, such apartments provide a place where they can live securely and independently.

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