Senior Care and the paradigms that need changing

By Mohit Nirula

For a real need to be addressed with a precise solution, for creators of the solution to benefit because the users of the solution endorse its efficacy and for an industry to flourish, the “need” must be seen in the correct perspective.

Therefore, we need some perspectives to be realigned for the creation of senior living communities.

The urban, middle class between the ages of 55 and 70 ensured that their children received the best education. As a consequence, the children have followed rewarding careers that have taken them away from their home city and also to different parts of the world.

The parents do not wish to sacrifice their independence, be a burden on their children and equally do not wish for their children to worry about them.

Seniors living independently in homes will, as they age face two challenges:

  • Loneliness on account of decreased social interaction

  • Dependence on unreliable and increasingly scarce/expensive service personnel for daily household chores

India’s senior citizen population is at 116 million. HelpAge India’s 2018 report states that by 2050, the senior citizen population will be equal to its under-18 population.

Communities designed for seniors promise to:

  • Design comfortable, practical and user-friendly space and create opportunities for social engagement with like-minded neighbours.

  • Design wellness and wellbeing programmes that keep residents physically active, mentally alert and intellectually engaged

  • Develop and adapt services to serve the evolving needs of the customer – from the diet, personal care to medical attention.

Senior care, therefore, is a service and not a product. Unfortunately, for long, it has been seen as a “real estate” solution and not a “service based on unconditional love, and care.”

If one were to be granted three wishes by the Union Government by rubbing the Policy and Regulations lamp, I would request:

  1. Elimination of GST on services provided to seniors at these communities. Seniors should not face this additional 18% burden.

  2. A review of the rules concerning the development of condominium – the same rules that apply to mixed family communities applies to senior citizen communities when the needs and use are completely different. For instance, current data shows only 30% of the parking space that is to be mandatorily provided is used. The additional space depletes potential green space or unfairly increases the cost of the project, finally borne by the resident.

  3. Reverse Mortgage: The current policy expects the primary resident to include a clause that insists on the individual taking the reverse mortgage to be the primary resident of that home. Cancelling this one clause will allow seniors to take a reverse mortgage on their existing asset and use the rent to supplement his / her retiral income. The additional income will allow them to move into a smaller but better serviced and designed home within a senior living community.

There are many good reasons for elders to choose senior living communities as their “forever home. It is for the government and the financial policymakers to make the minor changes necessary to address this important need of the country.

Mohit Nirula is the CEO of Columbia Pacific Communities.

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