Seventy-one-year-old Hari Baskaran, in partnership with HelpAge India, went on a cyclotron to celebrate active ageing and to draw attention to the critical support needs of the elderly. He cycled from Chennai to Delhi, approximately 3000 kms, in over two months. Along the way, he stayed at many old age homes, visited orphanages and schools for disadvantaged children and the visually impaired, and interacted with senior citizens associations to encourage and bring cheer to them.
An alumnus of the College of Engineering, Guindy and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, Baskaran was the Executive Director at Xerox India and Executive Vice President at HCL Infosystems, before he retired and took to leading an active and fulfilling life following his dreams and passion for outdoor activities.
In his recently released book, Celebrating Active Ageing, Hari draws upon his personal experiences and interactions with several inspirational individuals among senior citizens. Mathew Cherian who serves as the CEO of HelpAge India, informed, “Growing old is a fact of life and we must prepare for it at an early age with adequate food and exercise and a plan to be active, or we may lead a miserable life in our old age. I am very happy Hari Baskaran has written this book on celebrating active ageing.”
“Celebrating Active Ageing showcases the splendid lives of several senior citizens which will inspire the readers to act and adopt their own active ageing agenda in a vibrant and dynamic way which suits them the best. The book reminds the reader that we are moving away from the joint families of the past to micro families. Our family members may not be around to help us when we need it the most. It is imperative to lead an active, healthy life and to be independent and self-sufficient as long as possible. It calls on the elderly to change their mindset from viewing the post-retirement phase as one of decline leading to oblivion to a phase where one can set fresh goals and aspirations and achieve them in a glorious way,” informed Baskaran.
Shedding the ‘old age homes’ stigma once attached to facilities for the elderly, senior living homes have become a respectable real estate category. The aged are a high-risk group for various ailments and the modern senior living projects have healthcare staff, scalable facilities and processes in place to keep them safe. Inhouse doctors and nursing, rapid access to hospitals and strict sanitation processes are not found in normal housing projects. To meet the objective of maintaining a vibrant senior community, visitors are monitored and can easily be curtailed further.
South India leads in Senior Living
“The United Nations Population Fund and HelpAge India estimate India’s aged population (>60 years) to increase to nearly 173 million by 2026. In terms of supply, south Indian cities are considerably ahead with nearly 65% of the overall senior living projects located within the region. As on date, there are at least 40 senior living projects by the top 14 players within this niche segment across the country - either under construction or completed and occupied. Of this, nearly 26 projects are located in South India,” informed Prashant Thakur, Director & Head - Research, ANAROCK Property Consultants.
Coimbatore, Pondicherry, Chennai, Bangalore, Kodaikanal, Mysore, Cochin and Kanchipuram are some of the prominent senior living hubs in south India. Among these, Coimbatore has the maximum number of projects (around seven). The city seems to have emerged as one of the top retirement havens in India due to excellent healthcare facilities, trained staff availability and a salubrious climate. In the western region, Pune - the quintessential pensioner’s paradise - currently has at least six projects exclusively for senior citizens. The other hotspots for senior living in India are currently Vadodara in the west and Bhiwadi, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Dehradun, Faridabad and Kasauli in the north.
There are good reasons for south Indian cities emerging as the most vibrant senior living hubs - favourable climate, improved connectivity and an abundance of trained healthcare workers are major factors contributing to their pre-eminence in this field.
“With rising nuclear families and changing social environment, retirement homes are not only acceptable but popular options. However, though some developers are refining the art of creating projects for independent seniors, India needs much greater active participation of leading developers to build integrated retirement communities. Given that demand for such projects is rising in tandem with a relatively healthier ageing population, the current and future supply is still woefully inadequate,” informed Thakur.
“The paradox of life, as we age, is that additional years may not be the happiest, yet we are fearful of our end. We are afraid of being a burden on our families. We worry about our physical and mental health and the purpose of life begins to elude us. We must take matters into our own hands and resolve to be happy and build our citadel of wellness. With our best efforts, God willing, we will be happy and contented in the last phase of our lives,” writes Baskaran in his book.
According to Baskaran, “I saw several care facilities and homes for senior citizens during my cyclotron. I visited urban shelters for the homeless, palliative care facilities, facilities where elders need extensive nursing care and senior citizens homes. The right ambience and atmosphere are imperative and this is what Sri Ramanashraya Retirement Homes, in a village near Hosur, has to offer. Its cottages are nestled in well-kept lawns and trees and the residents are like-minded. There is an air of spirituality that adds to the ambience. The Senior Citizens home run by the Red Cross in Ahmedabad also offers neat clean facilities in an urban setting. It doesn’t have the greenery that Ramanashraya has but each floor has wide open spaces, comfortable seating and swings that allow for relaxed companionship with other residents. Homes that I visited and stayed in offered varying standards of ambience and atmosphere. Tara Sansthan & Anand Vridhashram in Udaipur was like a 4-star hotel. The vibrancy and enthusiasm of the residents at Ananda Vridhrashram in Palgarh touched my heart. The calm and bright faces of the residents of Matoshree Vridhrashram in Kolhapur, from long hours of prayers and bhajan singing sessions, also stood out for me.”
A large number of the senior citizens today are independent, well-travelled, financially stable and socially connected. They have every right and inclination to decide how they want to live in their golden years. More private players must venture into the segment of setting up decent senior citizens’ living facilities and cash in on the growing opportunity. Developers, service providers, healthcare players and operators must create solutions specific to India.