Living the long, high life

With increasing life-expectancy, seniors choose to live where health and happiness are assured along with safety and lasting friendships

May 03, 2024 04:04 pm | Updated May 06, 2024 12:57 pm IST

“Sunday, January 1, 2023, 11 a.m.” Geetha Vasudevan recalls fondly, pride evident in her voice as she remembers the warm welcome accorded to her family at their new home, nearly a year-and-a-half ago. They were the first residents of The Virtuoso, the flagship independent seniors’ community in Bengaluru by Columbia Pacific Communities (CPC). “The entire staff was there with flowers, a delightful watermelon juice as the welcome drink and a piano recital!”

Now, more than a year later, she and her husband haven’t had a reason to regret their decision of moving to this retirement community. Ram Kishore Vasudevan, their son, feels “it is like living in a large family kind of setting for my parents”. He says, “Having access to a number of activities to keep them occupied is just what they need at this age.” His father, recovering from a health condition, had an excellent experience with the rehab therapy “while my mother, a singer, feels a lot of pride in rediscovering her passion as a Thirupugal musician”. He is happy about his parents’ decision of moving to an active seniors’ community with facilities and healthcare.

An accommodation at CPC costs ₹63 lakh to ₹1.5 crore, if you want to own one. A monthly maintenance of ₹16,000 to ₹37,000 (plus GST) is charged. Rentals are from ₹14,000 to ₹20,000 in Bengaluru, and from ₹12,000 to ₹16,000 in Chennai (minus maintenance).

Dipankar Gupta, eminent academician, sociologist, columnist and a resident of Antara Senior Living Community, is similarly delighted with his decision to move “away from the pollution and noise of Delhi”. He says, “It is a pleasure to take my morning walk here along the beautifully landscaped extended campus of the community. I wish we had come here earlier!”

While this trend began in the West several decades ago, retirement communities came to India in the 2000s. Rapid changes in Indian society saw generations migrating to different countries or cities. With this arose the need for safety, community and reliable healthcare and wellness for the older generation. These factors drove the trend for retirement communities across India — 53% of such housing is in South India, 25% in the West, and 22% in North India. Studies by the World Health Organization, HelpAge India, and PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry say that the need for more such projects is going to grow exponentially as the number of senior citizens has already crossed the 100 million mark. With increasing life-expectancy, senior-friendly housing is welcomed by those who appreciate the difference in life there versus living by oneself. It is still early days for the segment but post-pandemic, more and more people have started gravitating towards this concept, which promises to make retirement enjoyable and hassle-free.

V. Sivakumar, Director, CPC, says, “The pandemic along with its unprecedented fear forced people to think about communities where they would not be isolated.”

Rohit Khatua, CMO, Antara Senior Care, agrees: “COVID-19 served as a catalyst in this movement towards the acceptance and interest for active senior living solutions. The sales velocity has doubled post-COVID, underscoring the growing demand and recognition of the benefits of active senior living.”

Residents of different senior living communities vouch for the fact that they have been living healthier lives since moving there. According to Sivakumar, “By taking care of the mundane, we ensure that people have more time for things that matter — like your health and your spouse!”

Vijayan Warrior, a resident at CPC, says, “Living here is a dream come true as I can devote time to my health without having to worry about filling up drinking water and overhead tanks!”

His wife and he get expert guidance from a geriatric-trained physiotherapist every morning. “When there’s a whole group of friends working out with you,” he says, “it becomes a great motivator to be regular.” Their son, Karun Warrior, is happy that his parents are living in a community that feels like family. He loves the opportunities of family engagement with the community and feels a part of it despite the fact that he lives abroad.

It did take time for people to see the difference between these havens and the idea of ‘old-age homes’. Whether it is CPC or Primus or Suvidha Retirement Village in the South, Antara in Dehradun and Noida, or Ashiana in Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi and in Lavasa near Pune, design holds sway. With vast areas, beautifully as well as thoughtfully landscaped and designed, these communities are like resorts where every need is taken care of by experts.

Ankur Gupta (Joint Managing Director, Ashiana) says, “Wellness and care go beyond the obvious, though we are among the first group to get into senior residences in the North; we continue trying to give our residents better quality of life.” If their project Ashiana Utsav at Lavasa boasts of an actual brook meandering across the campus, Advik, their newest project in Bhiwadi, spreads across 17 acres and will have a dedicated area for quiet forest-bathing. Similarly, the first thing you notice as you enter Serene Amara by CPC in Bengaluru, is how swiftly you’re enveloped in tranquillity. Peace and greenery abound and you espy inviting benches nestling among them. At the same time, Antara boasts of being nestled in a valley with beautiful lawns to jog, walk or just be.

To buy a home at Ashiana, both at Bhiwadi and Lavasa, the cost comes to ₹60 lakh to ₹80 lakh. It’s over ₹1.5 crore for villas at Advik, Bhiwadi. Rentals are from ₹15,000 to ₹30,000 plus maintenance. Monthly maintenance is ₹8,000.

Holistic health is after all one of the most important incentives offered by various retirement resorts by way of senior-friendly gyms, trainers, physiotherapists, yoga experts as well as medical staff for the odd ailments and the ready availability of an ambulance in any emergency. Rohit Khatua, CMO, Antara Senior Care, says, “We ensure that the entire campus is easily accessible and have also provided critical additions in living spaces such as grab rails in the bathrooms, skid-free floors, motion-sensing lighting, emergency response bells... we make sure that the residents feel completely safe.”

Currently, all units are sold out at Antara Dehradun. Resale is at open market price. The monthly maintenance works to approximately ₹25 per sq.ft., which works out to be anything between ₹40,000 and ₹1 lakh a month.

“From the very conception of designing such a community, we take into consideration all things from space-planning, easy accessibility to accommodate any mobility issues, bright lighting for clarity, and of course, anti-skid floors everywhere — indoors and outdoors,” says Poornima Hareendra, VP, Design and Development at CPC.

Space design plays another not-immediately-obvious role — that of ensuring a sense of a close community. “Holistic health is more than just physical well-being,” insists Hareendra, and says that the “organic way in which people meet and get to spend time with each other adds exponentially to their emotional and mental well-being”. As Vijayan Warrior says, “At an independent house, whole days could pass without meeting anybody in the street whereas here you run into people all the time, and that is instantly uplifting!”

All of these communities boast of facilities such as vibrant clubhouses, entertainment centres, community engagement opportunities and the much appreciated and frequented dining halls. “These places actually foster friendships,” says Dipankar Gupta. “Here, meeting up with like-minded people is as easy as coming down from your home and walking over for the delicious filter coffee at the restaurant across!” This is an aspect which they missed when they lived in Delhi. He says, “No matter how many friends you have, however much you wanted to meet up, distances and traffic made actually meeting up very infrequent.”

An added benefit, according to Aftab Seth, ex-diplomat, former ambassador, and a resident at Antara, is “not just socialising, but socialising with people of similar interests”. While Gupta swears by the refreshing change that “people here are beyond grand-standing”, Seth looks forward to “interacting with different kinds of accomplished people with whom you share interests”. Much in the same way, BG, a resident of Utsav, Lavasa, has made fantastic friends with whom she strolls by the stream, goes to the malls in Pune by the shuttle service provided by the group, or just relishes an impromptu ice-cream at the parlour nearby.

The builders make it their business to ensure ageing becomes easy, smooth and pleasurable rather than a drag. As Sanjay Viswanathan, Senior VP, Sales and Marketing, CPC, says: “It isn’t just business for us; rather it is a combination of hospitality, wellness and real estate.” He adds, “Professionalism, passion and empathy form our cornerstone ensuring that our residents feel as if they are a part of a family.”

BG swears by the facilities as well as the efficiency “from changing a light-bulb to getting an urgent medicine, things are at your door-step in minutes”.

Seth wholeheartedly appreciates how efficiently Antara “smoothens all the wrinkles of home care. Which is a real luxury”. This is how the whole idea of ‘retirement resorts’ becomes completely different from a usual residential complex.

“I’d choose senior living every time,” says BG, “because no other place would offer the thoughtfulness and service like these, where staff members treat you like family.”

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