Adopt PPP Model To Create More Senior Living Units, Says Eden Retirement Living Director
Senior housing has been picking up among the elderly looking for an environment that promotes community living. However, this real estate segment still seems to have certain challenges that need to be addressed, including demand-supply mismatch, expensive equipment, right location and right marketing avenues. Founder and Managing Director of Eden Retirement Living Deepak Gupta, in a conversation with Gunjan Piplani of MakaaniQ, shares his views on how the segment is working towards overcoming these challenges.
GP: Senior living, an upcoming segment in real estate, witnesses a demand and supply mismatch. What is that the developers could do to match the demand for such homes?
DG: According to a United Nations Population Fund and Help Age India report, the number of elderly in India stood at 83.58 million in 2006, and is expected to increase to 173 million by 2026. Of this, 29 per cent were sixty years or above and lived in urban areas. Against this growth in the seniors’ population, the supply of senior housing in 2010 stood at 8,000 units while the demand for such homes was over three lakh. This huge demand and supply gap shows that there is a need for both independent and assisted senior living homes.
There has to be a sync between the government and the senior housing developers to come up with ways that could ensure more such units are constructed.
While the developers could invest in cost-effective construction options such as prefabricated homes the government could support these developers with low-cost land or a public-private-partnership (PPP) model in government-provided land, with the proceeds distributed according to the ratio of land (at subsidised rates) and construction cost.
GP: Are senior living homes now being equipped with the right services that are on par with international counterparts?
DG: Yes, almost all the services are now being provided in senior living homes. While some of these services are sourced and some are built in. The equipment that goes into a senior home include:
Mobility Aids: Even when senior citizens can still walk, mobility aids can provide additional safety, especially for days when seniors will be on their feet for long periods.
Bathroom Safety: The bathroom becomes one of the most dangerous rooms in the home as a person ages. This is because sound stability is required to get up and down from the toilet, and in and out of the bathtub.
Health Aides: Depending on their needs, this could include items such as glucometer, BP monitor, portable oxygen tank, stationary oxygen tank, nebulizer, catheter supplies, continence supplies and compression clothing.
Activities of daily living: Activities of daily living may become more challenging, but there are many aids that can make them easier to achieve.
Exercise Aids: As mobility decreases, exercise may be more difficult to achieve. The good news is that there are many exercise aides that seniors can use while laying, sitting, or standing, to help maintain range of motion, flexibility, and general physical fitness.
GP: Senior living projects need a specific kind of location that allows the developer to give the dwellers enough space and good environment. How difficult is to find and acquire land in such a location?
DG: We have to view it from two points -- luxury senior living and affordable senior living. For the luxury segment, the land cost is a big component and especially when the trend is that most empty nesters want to be near cities and not too far away, the option left is going vertical because vast spread out spaces are going to make the projects unviable. We need to work with the government if we need to keep the real estate part affordable for both the affordable as well as the luxury segments.
Increasingly, developers in this segment are trying to find locations close to the hills or water bodies for scenic settings and cleaner air and yet trying to be not too far from the city hubs. They also want to find those locations closer to a large hospital to cater to any serious emergencies with any of their residents.
GP: Is marketing these projects a challenge? What is it that the brands could do to make senior living accepted?
DG: Marketing is not easy. Socially, many elderly are not yet accepting of the fact that they may not be able to depend on their children. Our emotional ties and structure bind us to such thinking.
However, moving into a senior home should be looked at as a positive as it is just like moving into another home, a more relaxed place where one can focus on health and well being without worrying about housekeeping or cooking, having safety and precautions built into the home making it more conducive for seniors and having like-minded people around for company.
While developers in this segment are doing their bit in educating the people, it is still a challenge to overcome the thinking biases that exist. Here we feel a more active role of the government by providing financial coverage for such housing as is prevalent internationally. This could go a long way in making it easier for people to opt for senior living.
GP: What is it that the developers need to do to offer the best of services at affordable prices?
DG: Developers need to work with the government for subsidised land and or input costs to be able to come up with more affordable senior housing options. For better construction, the developers should look for low cost and locally available construction material. The developers should not only focus on the real estate trends but also on the senior living services trends.
Preventive, holistic and integrative medicine can be a cost-effective and medically beneficial offering that can be included in senior living facilities to reduce some of the dependence and high costs of medical care.
GP: How lack of trained manpower is impacting the functioning of such projects?
DG: The need is to train more people in geriatric care. It is a work that comes from passion, therefore the screening of the type of people who want to join the profession is important and their pay packets have to be made attractive. We need to make this area of work popular by creating awareness and training more people in this field.
GP: What are the five things that could help transform this segment of India’s real estate.
DG: To begin with, the government has to step in to raise awareness about senior living spaces. Second, a PPP model is recommended to promote the affordable segment. Third, adopting technology is the key. Technology would not only help make living easier but also make a lot of tasks and services cheaper. Fourth, to create more jobs in this sector, Skill India could take the lead in training and building the workforce. Fifth, the developers must create a basic roadmap for the medical and wellness services provided in these spaces so that everyone knows what to expect.