Retirement homes have always been a popular concept in the West. But they were relatively slow to take off in India where for the longest time they were associated with the abandonment of older people. Not any longer. Better life expectancy and financial independence have spawned a new breed of senior citizens who are happy to live in retirement homes instead of dealing with the isolation and hassles of independent homes.
With attitudes changing, many real estate developers such as Ashiana Housing, Paranjpe Schemes, Shriram Properties and Covai Property Centre are pouring big money into retirement home complexes. Several non-real estate companies such as Max India and LIC Housing Finance have also entered the business of homes for seniors. While Max is yet to launch its project, LIC Housing has opened two senior living complexes in Bangalore and Bhubaneswar.
Real estate consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle India (JLL India) estimates India has about 32 retirement home complexes and another 30 either under construction or in the pipeline. The complexes have mushroomed near big cities such as Delhi and Chennai, so seniors can remain connected with family in the city, or in small towns such as Coimbatore and Kodaikanal, which are away from the hustle and bustle of the big city but still have the necessary infrastructure.
They consist of about 50 to 200 apartments or villas each, and can accommodate 100 to 400 people. JLL India pegs demand for senior housing units at 3,00,000, which is way short of the number of available units. According to Business Monitor International, the size of the realty sector stood at $66.8 billion in 2011. There are no official figures on the size of the retirement homes market, but industry experts estimate it is less than five per cent of the total real estate business.