Pandemic Boosts Demand For Senior Citizen Housing
Sarayu Srinivasan, 77, says she lives in a place “where there is no fear of Covid”. “I was worried about my safety when I was alone. Now, I have no stress.”
She shifted from her home in Chennai's Vadapalani area to a senior living facility in the suburbs in June. “My husband died two years ago and I felt very lonely staying on my own. That’s why I moved here.”
Food is prepared in a common kitchen, there’s a visiting doctor, and two ambulances are stationed for emergencies. “There is greenery all around and I can talk to other women in the park. The place hosts community events while strictly following social distancing protocols,” she said. “My flat has a big balcony. I like to sit there and enjoy my surroundings.”
Srinivasan is among more than 156 families with the elderly who have either bought or leased homes at Ashiana Shubham senior living project. A growing trend among Indians with enough resources in a nation where, going by the last count, about 10.4 crore people are above 60. Developers provide services and security, making life hassle-free in such gated complexes of apartments and row houses. Enquiries in this nascent market spiked during the pandemic as people look for safety. Supply, however, is limited.
A recurring theme of this pandemic has been seniors living alone, struggling for basics, managing without house help and anxious about existing and potential medical issues, according to Anuj Puri, chairman at Anarock Property Consultants. “The need for homes in a setting where these factors are taken care of is now undeniable.”
People who are really interested in booking visit the sites, according to Ankur Gupta, joint managing director at Ashiana Housing, which has four such gated apartment complexes in Bhiwadi, Chennai, Jaipur, and Pune. The site visits to booking ratio has gone up from about 10% prior to the pandemic to 20-25% now, he said, indicating the increased interest in the segment. "Overall, sales and enquiries are looking strong.”
The pandemic may reshape the future of the senior living segment in India, with demand for such homes set to zoom up amid the present uncertainties, according to Anarock Research.
Rising nuclear families, increased life expectancy and independently living seniors are becoming a new demography, said Puri. “Such seniors do not settle for traditional old-age homes as they prefer—and can afford—autonomy and the company of peers in well-equipped retirement communities.”
Like the Viswanathans. For 12 and a half years now, Shyam Viswanathan, 61, and Vijayalakshmi, 60, have been living at a gated community of row houses for seniors in Coimbatore.
“I came here from Gurgaon when I was just 48 years old because my father got severely ill and was not able to take the winter,” Viswanathan said. The couple resigned corporate jobs and moved here with his parents and two young daughters.
“The facilities here are excellent and my parents were well taken care of,” he said, adding that they have a common kitchen for those who do not wish to cook, besides doctors and nurses. “My mother was bed-ridden. Being freelance consultants, I and my wife had to travel a lot. We were able to do that because of the excellent care offered by the CovaiCare.”
He lost his father in 2011 and mother two months ago. “By now my daughters have moved out and my wife and I are senior citizens ourselves, so we decided to continue living here,” he said.
Viswanathan said CovaiCare’s management has taken utmost care during the pandemic and the facility and has adopted strict protocols against Covid-19.
“We live like big family. During the pandemic, there were four-five funerals and children of the deceased could not come because of the travel restrictions,” he said. “The management took care of everything and their children could participate in the rituals through WhatsApp videos.”
Cost Of Senior Living
Rent: Rs 30,000 to Rs 1 lakh a month on an average, depending on facilities, type of occupancy (security deposit extra).
Price: Rs 20-80 lakh based on size and location—monthly charges extra.
Limited high-end homes are priced between Rs 2 crore and Rs 8 crore.
Source: Anarock Research
Colonel A Sridharan, founder and managing director at CovaiCare, said bookings have gone up during the pandemic. “The demand is 30% more than before,” he said. “This year, a large number of people from North India want to come and live in our senior care communities.”
Such projects have come up on the outskirts of cities—places like Bhiwadi in the National Captial Region, Neral in Mumbai, Talegaon in Pune, and Devanahalli in Bengaluru. According to Anarock Research, 33 of the 55 senior living complexes are in tier 2 cities, and 22 in tier 1. The price of a unit ranges from Rs 20-80 lakh, while rents start at Rs 30,000 a month and can go as high as Rs 1 lakh.
Growing demand for this segment has drawn interest from bigger developers.
Godrej Properties Ltd. recently launched Godrej Royale Woods with specific amenities for the elderly in Devanahalli. The ‘Banyan’ is an exclusive tower dedicated to senior citizens in this project, said Uday Bhaskar, business head, South, Godrej Properties. “Senior living has become the need of the hour post the pandemic.”
Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd. is also planning to build homes for seniors in the next two years. “The pandemic has escalated the demand and we are planning to foray into this segment,” Arvind Subramanian, managing director and chief executive officer at the developer, said.
Max India Ltd., under its Antara Senior Living brand, announced Rs 300 crore investment in senior living projects in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai in the next four-five years.
These developers are betting on more buyers like Sarayu Srinivasan and the Viswanathans willing to make a new home in the twilight years.
For Srinivasan, besides comfort, the decision to shift to a senior living project also meant her Chicago-based son doesn’t have to worry about her living alone. “I have reached the destination where I have nothing to worry till I die.”