Government Brings Senior Living To Centre Stage; To Evaluate Services Soon
Senior housing, one of the neglected segments of the Indian real estate market, is expected to be in the spotlight in times to come. The Centre, recently, made clear that it was working on regulating mechanisms that pertain to home care services for the elderly, especially by private service providers. The process will be undertaken in two broad categories ─ ratings of such organisational care providers and prescribe standards of quality services. A World Health Organization study concludes that there is a requirement of four old age homes per district in India. However, slowly, private real estate developers are eyeing opportunities in senior homes market.
Entry of private players into senior living market
It is only recently that the concept of senior living has started to be explored by Indian developers. Indian traditions and culture often sees senior living as an extension of old age homes and while the latter has been of much help to seniors dealing with varied kinds of infirmity, illnesses, dependency issues etc, the notion behind sending elders to the care of old age homes is still regarded as something cruel. But not anymore.
With increasing disposable incomes, employment and travel opportunities, the definition of a senior citizen doesn't necessarily have to be loaded with the idea of dependency. In fact, well-placed seniors or those planning their future while in their late 40's and 50's are looking at opportunities to invest. Because facilities command a higher investible capital, such homes are priced slightly higher. Broadly speaking, such homes would command anywhere above Rs 40 lakh.
Vanita Krishnamurthy, a banker who has invested into a senior home says, “We were looking at assisted living homes but the market has very few offerings. One of the primary reasons to opt for such a home is that it ascertains round the clock medical services. It is more of a health need. Kids these days are mostly out of home or even abroad. In the absence of genuine caretakers, seniors needn't mind sourcing facilities from reputed players in the market. It is better than a home-nurse where accountability is least.”
With reputed developers foraying into this segment, most high-end and serviced senior homes, care is taken to provide them with the best of in-house services. Ergonomically designed furniture, height adjustable beds, dim-lights for use at night, firm sofas to aid easy seating, bathrooms that boast grab handles in case of emergencies, anti-skid tiles, bench-like seating, wide lobby space to facilitate easy movement, doctor-on-call, collaboration with leading hospitals, consultations at convenience, and maintenance of medical records are some of the common offerings. Push button services work in the favour the elders in such homes. Besides, concierge services, home cleaning and maintenance, in-campus restaurants with nutritious food are also provided. Interest based activities also find a mention in most private projects.
Does the price suit prospective buyers?
Unfortunately, no. This is one of the reasons why the government is keen on assessing private companies. While senior housing is becoming popular, it mostly sides with the wealthier lot. However, even the high prices are justified. A leading developer in Bengaluru has kept rental values of such homes at Rs 50,000 per month for a senior couple. However, prices vary depending upon the quality and extent of services provided and the demand in the market.
One of the arguments put forward in justifying the prices of such homes is that it does account for a higher return on investment due to the facilities for residents. Second, there are many categories of senior living. Rental and capital values may differ considering whether it is active senior living, assisted living and the extent of nursing care required. Government run or government-aided senior homes have yet not matched the quality that private developers are offering.
With the Centre keen on evaluating services provided by private firms, let's hope more private initiative kick starts the growth of cost-effective senior living opportunities in India.