* Four days after he retired as chief medical officer of National Thermal Power Corporation, A K Mishra moved into his new three-bedroom flat in Ashiana Utsav, a “retirement resort” located in Bhiwadi, some 60 km from Delhi on the Jaipur highway. He was 60 and his wife, Veena, 55. Until even eight years ago, the couple from Darbhanga in Bihar didn’t even know where Bhiwadi was. With both sons settled abroad and a daughter married in Gurgaon, the Mishras had decided early that post retirement they would move into a complex custom-made for senior citizens.
* In Neral, 90 km from Mumbai, a board by the roadside announces: “Dignity Lifestyle. A hassle-free retirement township. Not an old age home.” Wing Commander Alan Chatterjee (Retd) moved in here two years ago. He says he did it for his wife. “All men get a chance to retire as opposed to women. First they take care of their husband, then their children, and then the children’s children,” he says. “I bought membership of this place so that my wife could retire.”
* Living alone in Chennai after her husband’s death in 2003 became increasingly difficult for Premalatha (71), a retired dermatology professor from Stanley Medical College, Tamil Nadu. She could move in with one of her three sons, all of whom are settled abroad, or find a retirement home in India. A five-day trial stay at Clasic Kudumbam, Sholinganallur (Chennai), a 50-room complex built by real estate firm Clasic Group, helped her make up her mind. Sitting comfortably in a well maintained one room-plus-kitchen unit, Premalatha beams, “I’m away from all the bills and household chores!” She’s been here two years.
With an increasing number of India’s financially secure elderly choosing to live life independently in the company of others their age, a number of retirement, or “care” homes and resorts have sprung up around the country. With real estate companies such as Ashiana Group, Clasic, Brigade Group, Paranjape Schemes and even Life Insurance Corporation in the fray, they are built keeping in mind the elderlies’ need for safety, health and gainful occupation. Available between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 40 lakh, these aren’t places where you will find people leading a desolate existence.
Ashiana Utsav is a sprawling 15-acre complex with 640 one-, two, and three-bedroom flats, 390 of which are currently occupied. Security is tight and an ambulance is on standby 24x7. The road inside, which circles two large gardens, is wide and dotted with trees. Residents include retired IIT professors, defence personnel, doctors, teachers and senior executives.
Inside the five-storey buildings, the attention to detail is evident. The entire complex is wheel-chair friendly, has anti-skid floors and grab rails. The edges of the walls are rounded. To live here, at least one spouse has to be 55 years old, so such details are critical. Gurgaon-based businessman Abhimanyu Jain (61), who bought a three-bedroom flat here for Rs 23 lakh in 2005 (now it’s Rs 34 lakh up) and will move in this year, points to the switch board. The switches are broad with a red border that glows in the dark. Each flat has three emergency bells — in the master bedroom, bathroom and drawing-dining. One call and a nurse and ambulance reach you in five minutes.
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Life is good. But there are certain rules. At Utsav, the residents can have any number of day visitors but have to inform the complex in-charge if a guest is staying over. Single daughters are allowed to live with them, but married children can stay up to 60 days in a year. Residents can cook in their houses or eat in the club complex.
At Clasic Kudumbam, however, residents are not allowed to cook or keep a matchbox for safety reasons, though they do have a microwave in their rooms. They also have the option of dining in their rooms rather than at the food court. Monthly charges for the furnished rooms with television, telephone, refridgerator, air-conditioner and water-heater, are Rs 14,000 per head. In addition, there is a refundable deposit of Rs 12,500 and Rs 50,000 as caution deposit, “to meet emergencies” says Srinivasan manager (administration). Close relatives can stay for Rs 750 per day. Separate accommodation can also be arranged for visitors.
|RETIRE TO INDIA
A 2011 Jones Lang LaSalle survey found that over three lakh housing units custom-made for senior citizens were needed in urban areas; there are only about 3,000 now. Here’re a few retirement homes/resorts:
- Ashiana Utsav: Bhiwadi, Jaipur
- Godhuli Senior Citizen Home: Delhi, Kolkata
- Dignity Lifestyles: Mumbai
- Clasic Kudumbum: Chennai
- LIC HFL Care Homes: Bangalore, Bhubaneswar
- Brigade Sereniti: Bangalore
- Athashri Foundation: Pune
- Golden Nest: Pune
- The Verandah Gardens: Kochi
- Covai Property Centre: Coimbatore
At Dignity Lifestyle, friends and relatives can visit as often as they want to and can stay for up to a month, but in the guest house. There are private car services both in Neral and Mumbai, run by drivers who are devoted to the residents, and even accompany them to a hospital or airport.
Most retirement homes are either built outside or on the outskirts of the city. The builders say there’s a reason for that. Such a project would cost several times more in the city and it would also be impossible to get open spaces. Also, as they age, people want to move away from the chaos of the city. Ashiana Utsav resident J C Dhingra, who retired as physical education teacher in 2003, couldn’t agree more. “When we moved here in 2008, I would drive to Delhi thrice a month. Now I want to avoid its hustle and bustle,” he says. His wife, Premlata (71), says it took a few months to settle down, but they’re more than happy now.
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Health is a crucial issue. Not every residential home will accommodate an ailing senior. Clasic Group founder Baba Shankar says they conduct a thorough medical check-up prior to taking in a resident. “If they develop some disease after joining then, of course, we will arrange for facilities to support them,” he says. LIC Care Homes goes a step ahead and asks for a “declaration of good health” before giving out the property. “Though we have residents who have undergone bypass surgeries, we discourage those with terminal ailments from investing here,” says C R Sriharsha, branch manager at LIC Care Homes, Bangalore.
This is where the concept of assisted care is proving helpful. Ashiana Utsav has such a “care home” and Dignity Lifestyle too offers assisted living for a Rs 4 lakh one-time non-refundable and Rs 9 lakh refundable deposit, apart from a monthly maintenance of Rs 21,600. Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia are kept under constant supervision of doctor and nurses.
- Some complexes demand a declaration of health. The ailing or terminally ill may not be eligible to buy property
- Friends/relatives may be allowed to stay for a limited number of days
- Guests may not be allowed to stay in your room but put up in a guest house
- Not all places allow you to cook
But there are a few housing complexes for the elderly within the city as well. One example is Godhuli Senior Citizens’ Home in Sector 2 Dwarka, Delhi where 62 residents occupy 56 rooms of an unpretentious three-storey building. Rooms are spacious and come fully furnished. Residents cannot bring many things from their homes. Some bring “AC, fridge, computer, TV” and few items of furniture, but there is no space for more. Residents eat together in a dining hall. Cooking is not permitted, though a microwave oven can be used.
Godhuli is considered a good senior citizen home and for five years there has been a waiting list. “Once the call from God comes, then only is a room vacated,” says Bharadwaj. The Society’s rules exclude any applicant with a serious or communicable disease, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
The home is relatively inexpensive, asking for a fully refundable security deposit of Rs 2 lakh and then a monthly all-inclusive charge of Rs 9,000-10,000.
At Utsav, the concept is different. Here, one gets to own the flat. After the resident’s death, it is passed on to nominee who can move once he reaches 55. Else, he’s free to keep it for later, rent it out or sell it. “In the case of LIC Care Homes, one cannot buy the flat or cottage,” says Sriharsha. “Instead, the person is given an allotment certificate and can live for as long as he wants. At any point, he can return the property to LIC. The price of the property minus the transfer fee will be returned to him. In case of the resident’s death, the property goes to the co-allottee.”
In the case of Dignity Lifestyle Retirement Township, “after one gives up membership or expires, the refund money goes to the nominee” says Sheilu Sreenivasan (founder president of Dignity Foundation). For these retirement homes, the builder gets no subsidy. It’s a niche business, so land is bought on market rates.
For the new generation of independent senior citizens, these places bring hope of starting a fresh new chapter of their life. Mani Bharucha, who has been living at Dignity Foundation since 2006, epitomises that spirit. The only one alive in her family, she spends her time teaching English to children in Daffodils, an English medium school in the nearby village. She is known as the “Sophia Loren” of the Dignity Township because of her youthfulness. Ask her her age and she says she’s “21 today”.
(Gireesh Babu in Chennai and Rrishi Raote in Delhi contributed to this article)