Why India’s post-COVID-19 senior housing concept has become more contemporary and viable

Prior to COVID-9, senior housing marketing emphasized the aesthetic setting and lifestyle amenities of nursing homes and assisted living complexes

Why India's post-COVID-19 senior housing concept has become more contemporary and viable

Making life better for seniors. Representative image/PTI

India’s population of 1.3 billion is aging faster than ever. Between 2020 and 2050, the population of people over 60 is expected to increase by 130 percent from 139 million to a whopping 320 million. The devastating toll the COVID-19 pandemic is taking on vulnerable older adults has fueled the search for innovative models that provide safe and acceptable housing options for this rapidly expanding cohort. Hence, there is a need for the growth of senior housing as a separate asset class in the Indian real estate market, comparable to co-working and co-living, which have emerged as key asset classes in recent years. These communities must be guided by the concepts of resilience, flexibility and choice, the adoption of new and unorthodox models, and the goal of increasing real estate developer market share.

Today, freedom and independence are the most defining characteristics of a senior. The term “independent elderly” is a new demographic due to the emergence of core households, longer life expectancies, and geographically dispersed offspring. A senior living community is where seniors reside, as opposed to a retirement home which is their last resort when no one is available to attend to their needs. The drivers in this segment now and in the future will be the following.

Flexibility planning: Commitment to the long haul
Dealing with pandemic-like emergencies in the future: COVID 19 has hit local residents particularly hard. However, it will not be the last pandemic with fatal consequences. Real estate developers have begun to respond to this need, either by developing independent senior housing projects or by building townships equipped with the necessary amenities for the elderly. Achieving a better quality of life requires more structured care programs, targeted policies, specialized medical services, senior-friendly architecture, and socioeconomic/financial interventions.

climate change: Sustainable design concepts are becoming increasingly popular as public awareness of the dangers of climate change grows. For new construction to be as effective as possible, resiliency planning that sets design goals and solutions should be built into capital budgets and implemented as these projects begin.

Recognize the diversity of living in old age: The senior living market is not homogeneous. Residents come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have a variety of interests and skills. The housing models that take care of this target group must take into account cultural, income, generational and lifestyle options. The aim is to adapt to individual needs such as shared apartments, centers for healthy living, cross-generational housing and flexible apartments that can be put together according to lifestyle and today’s requirements. In response, the amenities provided by the builders include housekeeping services, leisure facilities, and common areas.

In some cases, these programs include medical services such as an ambulance, regular check-ups, long-distance connections to hospitals, and 24-hour doctors and specialists.

While the draft National Policy for Seniors 2020 emphasizes the silver economy, robust changes are needed to close the existing gaps and provide tailored solutions and services for older people. As the policy currently only targets certain groups of seniors, it needs to broaden its scope to include middle and upper income groups. For an overall win for seniors, policy action is essential to take care of the industry and ensure that a healthy market for sustainable elder care is fostered over the long term.

The southern cities of India are now leading, with 70 percent of all senior housing projects in India taking place there. Geographically, the majority of senior housing projects in India are located in the southern cities of Bengaluru, Chennai, Goa, Kochi and Coimbatore, followed by the western and northern regions. As residential communities for seniors continue to grow in cities and towns across the country, more services and amenities are likely to be added over the next few years.

In summary, the post-COVID-19 world of senior care marketing will be vastly different than it used to be. Organizations that do not understand this reality and adapt accordingly will undoubtedly fail. The new regulations require a much more robust marketing strategy for healthcare providers, prospective patients, residents and their families. Prior to COVID-9, senior housing marketing emphasized the aesthetic setting and lifestyle amenities of nursing homes and assisted living complexes. The aesthetics of a building, the taste of the cuisine, the quality of activities and entertainment, etc. still matter. However, they will take a back seat to the more serious factors that homebuyers are demanding today.

The author is CEO and Director of Axis Ecorp. Views are personal.

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