A home of one’s own is everyone’s dream, and it takes on even greater importance as we advance in age. A home does not just provide security, but the immediate and most familiar environment in which we live – an environment which we can customize so that it meet our specific needs.
Our home is our ultimate investment – not only in financial security, but in peace of mind. And peace of mind is what everyone hopes to achieve and maintain in their old age. For this reason, home purchase should be about securing a safe, comfortable and joy-providing venue for the elders in one’s family, and for one’s own waning years.
Today, many elderly individuals or couples in India today wind up living on their own, either by circumstance or by choice. In many cases, their grown-up children pursue careers abroad or in other cities, or their children’s spouses do not wish to cohabit with elderly people when they get married. For better or for worse, the traditional joint family model is on the way out in India, and the nuclear family is on the rise.
In fact, many senior citizens in India today are faced with either of two unhappy scenarios:
- Their children have moved out, and the homes which they were occupying with them throughout are no longer suitable
- Their current homes fully meet their needs, but they must now find a new place to live
Of course, many elders continue to stay with their families, but if the family’s home was not selected according to the right criteria, life can become very uncomfortable for the old people living there.
Senior Living Projects – A Dubious Option
There are several residential projects being built throughout India that claim to cater to ‘senior requirements’. While some of these do appear to deliver on what they promise, a lot of them actually present old people with a nightmare situation. The facilities that they were promised while the project was under construction never materialized, or the project is managed by a mercenary healthcare agency which tries to save on every expense.
Even if the senior living project delivers on everything, the fact remains that the elders have had to abandon their familiar social environment to move into an entirely new location – often in a completely new city. This can become a very unwholesome situation for them to land at a time in their lives when they need familiarity and stability the most.
Once retired, most Indians will not like to shift to new homes and new neighborhoods. They prefer to ‘age in place’, or occupying the same home that have always lived in. Thus, the demand for senior living projects is limited to a very few percentage of India’s ageing population – and even this percentage may decide to ‘move back’ if they find the life intolerable.
A Home Suitable For One’s Old Age
Affordability is not the only aspect which should determine the selection of a ‘long-haul’ home. The property must provide everything in terms of physical comfort and security. Elderly people need homes that provide them easy access to daily necessities, including shops, public transportation, healthcare facilities and other essential services. They must be able to meet their basic living needs and maintain social connections at the same time.
This is the reason why low cost-standalone housing invariably falls short of what senior citizens need. They are better off in residential complexes that have a lot of communal facilities including clubhouses, gardens and open spaces. They need such facilities to be able to pursue leisure activities, and also to be able to meet and build lasting relationships with their neighbours.
However, most of the budget housing projects in India are not geared towards these requirements of the senior citizens. Affordable housing saves on money, but does not give them access to the elements of a healthy and social lifestyle.
Most people buy homes when they are in their productive years. Keeping the needs of the needs of old age, it is relevant to ensure that:
- The home provides access to facilities like shopping, healthcare, etc. One should not assume that these conveniences will attach themselves over time. Many areas in which budget housing comes up lack development potential and thus don’t attract these businesses
- The residential facilities have enough premises to meet the social needs of the elderly. Small projects do not cater to this requirement
- The homes is not be in a high rise building, because such buildings tend to lead to social disconnection and also provide low assurance of internal mobility and safety.
It goes without saying that affordability will always be an important factor while buying any kind of home in India, with the possible exclusion of luxury homes. However, for the reasons stated above, it should not be the sole consideration. For people who wish to continue living in the same neighbourhood in their waning years, the homes they live in today must be ‘retirement ready’.