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There has been a marked increase, in the number of senior living projects since 2010. With growing acceptability and demand for senior housing units, such projects are coming up in the suburbs of all key metros in the country and in some select tier-2 destinations such as Coimbatore, Goa, Dehradun and some parts of north India.
The market for senior housing in India
It is anticipated that the elders in India would increase both, in absolute numbers and relative strength, indicating a gradual swing to a senior population. According to a CII study, the elderly population in India is expected to triple from 104 million in 2011 to 300 million in 2050, accounting for 18% of the total population in 2050. It is estimated that the population above 60 years (60+) of age in India, will touch approximately 170 million by 2025.
Besides growth in sheer numbers, seniors are also evolving as a customer segment and have needs and wants, which are different from seniors in earlier times. A significant section of seniors today are independent, financially stable, well-travelled, socially connected and as a result, have well developed thoughts of how they want to spend time after retirement.
There is, today, a larger percentage of educated seniors than ever before in India. They now consider life after retirement, as an opportunity to spend more time with families, pursue hobbies, develop new interests or even continue working or starting a new career.
A misunderstood buyer segment offers growth potential
While it is true that the seniors are more independent and better equipped to take decisions after their retirement, it is equally correct to say that their needs are not rightly understood and therefore, not met appropriately by both, the public and private sector at large.
There clearly exists an untapped opportunity for investment and development in this sector. Unlike western countries, where the senior living industry has gained maturity, India provides an opportunity to developers, service providers, healthcare players and operators, to create solutions specific to India while leveraging learning from across the world.
While a substantial proportion of seniors want to live in the city around their children or in proximity to them, nuclear family and space issues in top metros create social challenges. Elders living in the outskirts of the city, on the one hand enjoy the peaceful, expansive environment and on the other hand, the benefits that the city life provides, such as access to hospitals, among others. In the outskirts of Mumbai, there are several senior living projects, such as Nulife by Disha Direct and Gagan Group near Lonavala; Dignity Lifestyle in the foothills of Matheran Hills, at Neral, around 90 kms from Mumbai; Ashiana Senior Living in Lavasa; Athashri by Paranjpe Group in Pune; and Tata Housing’s project in Talegaon.
Factors that could boost the senior living segment on the outskirts of major metros and in tier-2 cities
Affordability drives demand: One of the key issues that has an impact on senior living, is affordability. While, on the one hand, there is a desire to live independently, on the other hand the ‘diminishing returns’ on post-retirement finances, means that a lot of senior citizens cannot afford such projects. Since land prices in the major metros are very high, senior living has more potential to thrive in tier-2 cities, where the value of land is less. Such projects will be more affordable for senior citizens, who have to live off their savings after a certain age.
Lesser congestion makes it easy: Seniors prefer living in an environment, which is crowd-free, has a lower population density, lower traffic volume and lower presence of polluting industries. Some of the larger metros like Delhi and Mumbai, do not fulfil these criteria. This also makes tier-2 towns ideal, for senior living projects.
Availability of large land parcels: There is a realisation that senior living is not merely old age homes, but the social infrastructure around these projects is also important. Senior living projects also require amenities such as large gardens, parks, walkable green spaces and wheelchair-friendly pathways. In cities like Mumbai or Delhi, it would be difficult to come up with such projects, as it will be a costly affair. Developers want quicker movement of inventory and increased absorption levels. The requirement of large land parcels is another reason why senior living is more likely to thrive in tier-2 cities, as land is cheaper.
Healthcare accessibility: Availability and quality of healthcare plays a very important role in the success of senior living projects. According to JLL Research, an estimated 27 million seniors require specialised healthcare. Most of the senior living projects have a day-care facility for minor ailments and regular check-ups of their residents. Typically, senior living complexes should be in a radius of 5-8 kms or within 20-30 minutes’ distance from a good secondary and tertiary care hospital. With quality healthcare increasingly available in tier-2 cities and major healthcare providers setting up bases there, these cities are ideal for senior citizen projects, as developers can enter into tie-ups with them.
There are other requirements of senior citizens, which tier-2 cities fulfil. One, is the presence of social amenities such as temples, clubs, retail malls, entertainment and other recreational facilities nearby. Tier-2 cities also give senior citizens access to employment, since seniors, especially in the independent living stage want to stay employed, even if it is part-time employment.
Senior living projects are on the rise
According to JLL Research, it is observed that an increasing number of developers are venturing into the senior living space of the Indian real estate market. While most of the projects being launched in this space are holistically dedicated to senior citizens, many developers are also launching integrated townships, wherein, a proportion of the total units is dedicated to senior living, along with generic residential development. For reasons mentioned above, most of these projects will thrive in tier-2 cities.
Having said that, the government needs to take steps, to improve the condition of senior citizens. Special status to senior citizen projects like hospitals, in terms of FSI, tax incentives to developers so that such projects become more affordable for the senior citizens, allotment of land parcels for senior citizen projects on lines similar to public amenities, are some such policy initiatives that can be considered.
(The writer is CEO and country head, JLL India)