The following is the report by Kishor Pate, CMD – Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd.
Good, affordably-priced housing is the essence of a happy and secure life for people of all ages. However, this is especially true for older citizens, or people aged 50 and above. Because housing is the largest single factor in the household budgets of most Indians, the cost of housing has a direct impact on day-to-day financial security and the capacity to gather capital which can be drawn on in the retirement years.
In the Indian context, affordability is not the only criterion that drives the demand for homes which people can occupy with dignity in their advanced years. Their homes must also be supportive of health, safety as physical comfort. This means that homes suitable for the elderly must have good access to shops catering to the necessities of daily living, essential services, public transportation and healthcare facilities. These aspects are important when it comes to older adults being able to maintain a comfortable and active lifestyle.
The elderly must be able to meet their basic needs and also maintain social connections. Because of this, low-cost housing in small standalone projects is not suitable for senior citizens. They require the benefits of larger residential complexes which have communal facilities such as gardens, clubhouses and open spaces, so that they can meet other members of the community in a safe and wholesome environment.
However, the tragedy in India is that most of the existing supply of housing in is not geared towards meeting the requirements of senior citizens. Housing that is affordable tends to lack good access to the elements that contribute to a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle for the elderly. The available options that do offer proximity to stores and healthcare and also a means to socialize within the residential project are priced beyond the affordability of family wage-earners.
Much is being currently written about senior living projects being the new trend in India. Senior living projects do have their merits; however, what is being overlooked here is the fact that Indians do not, as a rule, prefer to shift to new homes of any kind when they grow old. They prefer to ‘age in place’ – meaning that they would like to continue occupying the homes in which they have been living all along. The demand for homes in senior living projects is limited to a small margin of India’s ageing population.
While choosing a home during the productive years, it is important to ensure that:
Financing the home does not overly strain the budget, so that enough savings towards retirement are possible
The home has existing access to all the necessities of the elderly. One cannot depend on the possible arrival of shops and hospitals at a future date. Because of inherent lack of development potential, some areas will always remain detached from such facilities even years after their emergence from obscurity
The project has existing facilities for meeting the social needs of the elderly. Small projects, though cheaper, do not have these facilities
The home is not in a skyscraper, since these have the highest incidence of social disconnect and generally also the lowest assurance of safety and internal mobility
Given the fact that a majority of Indians prefer to continue living in the same homes as they age, it is important that homes purchased during the productive years have the above elements in place. While affordability will always be a very important criterion, it is not a wise choice to make it the sole consideration while buying a home. A home must be also ‘retirement ready’ in all respects.
Lack of access to good hospitals can be a serious setback in case of medical emergencies, and the absence of a means for socializing will mean a limited and uncomfortable experience in later years. A home must be and remain conducive to an active, healthy and comfortable at every stage of life. These qualities must not be sacrificed solely to achieve the objective of affordability.
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