Monday, May 3, 2010

Senior citizens' homes emerging as a serious segment of real estate

PUNE: Indian real estate scene is witnessing the emergence of senior citizens' homes as a new market segment as the number of projects and housing stock directed at this section of population is rising fast, a report by real estate advisory firm Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj (JLLM) has said.

The observation is highlighted in a report Senior housing sector in India: Key Trends,' which JLLM released on Friday. "The status of seniors in Indian market is experiencing a sea-change, owing to their growing cohort size, augmented financial independence and change in mindset. They are no longer considered withdrawn, risk averse and financially dependent. The immense potential of this segment, with its unique needs and promises, offers an array of opportunities to the Indian real estate market," the report said.

Saumyajit Roy, associate vice-president (senior living) at Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj, told TOI, "Five years ago, there were only about 3 to 4 developers focusing on senior living sector to any degree. Moreover, their focus was diffused and their approach was not as well-researched and need-based, as it is today. In the current context, there are around 14 developers actively exploring this segment."

In India, more than 60 per cent of households are nuclear and 8.94 per cent of the population is aged 60-plus, indicating that the aged are in greater need of support than ever.

According to real estate market sources, the number of housing units being built specifically for seniors has increased four to five fold and the segment is on a growth path. "We estimate the number of units in this segment at about 4,000 now, but the way the segment is growing we expect this number to jump to over 20,000 in three years," said the chief executive officer of a Mumbai-based real estate consultancy firm who did not want to be named.

The report pointed out that while opportunities exist, it is important to comprehend the ecosystem in which seniors exist in India. It is imperative that real estate developers understand and acknowledge the unique requirements of the elderly while catering to the sector. The aged population faces numerous issues, typical of the sunset years of their lives.

"A growing sense of insecurity, craving for companionship, fear of getting obsolete and loss of relevance within the family, increasing physical disability, difficulty to access transport, a need for quality healthcare and geriatric care, complexity in conducting the daily chores of family life are some of the several issues that the aged face today. These, compounded by poor access to government and other support systems, insurance and legal assistance, immobilise them. These nuances of old age need to be thoroughly recognised by the developers," the report has elaborated.

The report underlines that there are rising numbers of seniors who are adapting to the idea of senior living' spending the sunset years of their lives with similar-aged companions and sharing facilities in settings of enablement and security. The report also points out to a recent survey of households with senior citizens which revealed that over 60 per cent found the concept of a senior citizen's club or a senior citizen's association as a viable and practical one. Contemporary retirement homes or resorts have replaced the earlier concept of old age homes, which symbolised the last option for needy and abandoned elderly, it said.

City-based Paranjape Schemes Construction Limited has pioneered the concept in the city with their project Atha Shree (the beginning), which has thus far completed three such projects and has set its sight on other cities and countries to develop retirement villages.'

Another realty firm, Ashiana Housing Limited, is constructing the Rs 200 crore Utsav Lavasa in Lavasa City near Pune. The project will comprise 475 retirement housing units comprising of villas and multiple choices apartments. Manoj Tyagi, vice-president, Ashiana housing, said there is a growing acceptance among discerning Indian senior citizens about retirement homes. He said the residents of the retirement resort will be able to maintain the active, healthy lifestyle that they have grown accustomed to, but with more luxuries like hobby clubs, activity rooms, swimming pool or health club.

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