In­di­ans break from fam­ily living, into re­tire­ment vil­lages in twi­light years

The China Post - - LIFE - BY RACHEL O’BRIEN

When Usha Mantri brushed off frown­ing tra­di­tion­al­ists and moved into a re­tire­ment vil­lage, she be­came a pi­o­neer for a gen­er­a­tion of In­di­ans who are in­creas­ingly break­ing the cus­tom of multigenerational house­holds.

She is now hap­pily set­tled in the peace­ful retreat by In­dia’s west­ern moun­tains, which has an on-site Hindu tem­ple and of­fers ayurvedic mas­sage — and is a two-hour drive from her son in Mumbai.

“I have a very dif­fer­ent type of think­ing,” the 69-year-old told AFP in her stu­dio apart­ment at the Dig­nity Life­style Re­tire­ment Town­ship, one of the first of its kind in In­dia.

“I want to give full free­dom to my child, and I want full free­dom for my­self.”

Mantri was the first res­i­dent to move into the Dig­nity com­plex, which looks more like a mod­est hol­i­day re­sort, nine years ago. She now has more than 60 neigh­bors, while other re­tire­ment com­mu­ni­ties are spring­ing up around In­dia.

While most se­nior cit­i­zens still pre­fer to live with their fam­i­lies, al­ter­na­tive op­tions are in­creas­ingly in de­mand as the coun­try de­vel­ops, chil­dren mi­grate and their par­ents live for longer.

“I think very slowly minds are get­ting changed,” said Hem­lata Parekh, one of Mantri’s neigh­bors at Dig­nity and a for­mer teacher.

Parekh, 82, has sib­lings in Mumbai but no chil­dren, and said it would be dif­fi­cult for her to man­age house­hold chores and trans­port in the city. Dig­nity, how­ever, has a communal dining room, round- the- clock se­cu­rity and an in-house doc­tor.

There is a wing with spe­cial care for those with de­men­tia, while for the more ac­tive re­tirees there are monthly shop­ping trips and oc­ca­sional pic­nics.

“It is a has­sle-free re­tire­ment town­ship, in a real sense,” said Parekh.

‘De­pen­dency ra­tio’ Grows

There are cur­rently more than 100 mil­lion In­di­ans aged 60 and above, and that is pro­jected to rise to more than 300 mil­lion by 2050, when they will make up about 20 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to the char­ity HelpAge In­dia.

This grow­ing “de­pen­dency ra­tio,” along with bet­ter pur­chas­ing power among the el­derly, are among the fac­tors said to be fu­elling the de­mand for se­nior hous­ing.

Man­ish Ku­mar, a strate­gic con­sul­tant with real es­tate com­pany Jones Lang LaSalle In­dia, said the cur­rent an­nual de­mand for such projects was es­ti­mated to be at 312,00 units, but only 10,000 to 15,000 units of new sup­ply are be­ing planned.

“Of late we have seen a good num­ber of re­puted real es­tate de­vel­op­ers and hos­pi­tals en­ter­ing into this seg­ment,” Ku­mar said, cit­ing projects be­ing de­vel­oped by the prop­erty arm of the gi­ant Tata con­glom­er­ate.

El­derly res­i­dents ei­ther buy a prop­erty in a town­ship or, as is the case at Dig­nity, put down a partly- re­fund­able de­posit to rent a living space and pay monthly charges.

Top- end hous­ing at Dig­nity re­quires a de­posit of about 3.5 mil­lion ru­pees ( US$ 56,000) — 75 per­cent re­fund­able if the res­i­dent leaves or dies, when it goes to an heir — and fees of 10,000 ru­pees a month, plus meals.

Ku­mar said most projects to date were in west­ern and south­ern In­dia, ar­eas which have more nu­clear fam­i­lies, higher ed­u­ca­tion lev­els and a greater num­ber of em­i­grat­ing young peo­ple, but de­vel­op­ers are now also tar­get­ing sec­ond and third-

tier cities in the north and east.

Fo­cus on the Mid­dle

Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, only one of the projects so far, An­tara Se­nior Living near the Hi­malayas, is tar­get­ing the very top end of the In­dian mar­ket, with most de­vel­op­ers fo­cused on the mid­dle and up­per mid­dle- class.

“If a rich man sends his fa­ther to a se­nior cit­i­zens’ home, he will be looked down upon,” ex­plained Gopal Srini­vasan, a trustee at Dig­nity Life­style.

“There­fore the very rich keep their par­ents in their house, have a 24-7 nurse, have a doc­tor com­ing in ev­ery day, but they won’t ad­mit their par­ents to se­nior cit­i­zens’ houses,” he said.

At the other end of the scale are the many who can­not af­ford such care.

Srini­vasan said state- run homes for the aged were in a “pa­thetic con­di­tion,” while abuse of se­nior cit­i­zens by their chil­dren had be­come “ram­pant.”

On top of this, about 90 per­cent of In­dia’s el­derly worked in the un­or­ga­nized sec­tor — such as small farms or fam­ily en­ter­prises — which has left most with­out pen­sions, said Prakash Bor­gaonkar, Mumbai direc­tor of HelpAge In­dia.

The gov­ern­ment of­fers regular so­cial se­cu­rity pay­ments only to those be­low the poverty line — a mi­nor­ity of In­dia’s el­derly — and even then the benefits are dif­fi­cult to ac­cess, Bor­gaonkar said.

“So­ci­ety is chang­ing fast, and be­cause of this joint fam­ily sys­tem which is break­ing, th­ese el­derly are again iso­lated, they are ne­glected,” he said, call­ing for gov­ern­ment poli­cies to sup­port the el­derly as de­mo­graph­ics swiftly change.

“Are we ready to take up this chal­lenge? To­day we have to think on that.”

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