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The old and the beautiful written by Meera Siva, published in The Hindu Business Line. February 2, 2014

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If the term ‘senior living’ conjures up the image of a functional apartment, hostel-like food and a spartan community hall where everyone plays bingo, it’s time you woke up to the bouquet of elite options that developers have to offer by way of retirement homes. From sprawling villas to penthouses, retirement living options are focusing on luxury too. Antara Senior Living is one such developer offering penthouses costing 𔝁 crore or more. Living it up, wouldn’t you say?


Developers are putting a zing into your retirement years, by offering exotic locations, resort-like facilities, exclusive services and premium healthcare facilities. “In the past, seniors only looked for basic features, but now they demand better options and more features,” says Sudesh Khatawkar, ED, Paranjape Schemes, developer of Athashri communities.


Scenic sanctuary

Think of retirement and the first thing that worries you is the location. You may want to live in the same place you are in now. You may like to move closer to your grandchildren. Or, if your kids are abroad, you may prefer a place well connected for travel.


But now, developers are looking beyond traditional retirement towns such as Coimbatore, Pune and Bangalore to offer homes in the lap of nature. New communities are coming up in Lavasa, Lonavala, Kodaikanal, Kasauli, Dehradun and chances are that there is one being planned in the hill resort near you. ‘Themed’ homes are in too, including those set near a golf course.


To ensure spacious dwellings, developers are keeping a tab on the number of homes they offer under each project. “Our high-end villas have only nine to 11 houses per acre,” notes PB Anandpadmanaban, CEO of Serene Retirement Communities.


But even if the promise of salubrious climate or scenic beauty tempts you right now, take a deep breath and don’t forget the basics. Consider practical aspects such as infrastructure, access to shops, entertainment, medical services, and adequate water and power back-up.


Perfect retreat

There is no doubt that the first thing you look for is hassle-free service, no matter what stage of senior life you are in. Therefore, a ‘premium’ senior living option will fall flat unless it is accompanied by professional services. Simple things such as standard operating procedures to handle emergencies must be laid out judiciously.


Check out how the developer is hiring and training his staff. “In high-priced properties, services should stand out in the way they are managed and delivered,” says Tara Singh Vachani, CEO of Antara Senior Living.


While non-skid tiles were the pinnacle of senior-friendly homes, builders are engaging with architects abroad such as Perkins Eastman for esoteric comforts. NuLife Community offers an acupressure walking garden designed by a New York-based landscape architect.


Large wi-fi enabled club houses, swimming pools, pharmacy, electronic emergency alert system and cafés are becoming the norm. You may also like to check for salons, bars, theatre and ayurvedic massage centres to liven up your retired life. Air-conditioned dining area, party hall, and geriatric fitness centre with trained professionals. Round-the-clock security with electronic access control is also a given.


In addition to daily housekeeping service, you also get laundry service. You can also expect concierge service to handle your travel and entertainment needs. Providers are looking for ways to keep residents engaged through various hobby classes and facilities such as libraries.


If you’re finicky about food, you certainly shouldn’t settle for a standard menu. Some communities offer an assortment of menus and an array of restaurant choices spanning different cuisines. You could also opt for customised food to suit your taste and dietary requirements.


You can also keep up with your social life, if the community draws in outsiders. “Our restaurant, cafe, bar, salon and gym are accessible to outsiders, which gives an opportunity for people from outside to come in and interact with the residents,” says Sanjay Lakhotia of Aamoksh One Eighty Retirement Resorts.


Many providers are realising that there is more to senior life beyond yoga and meditation, says Dr Prasant Konenu, MD of Rakindo Developers.


Voluntary service may be one of the things you want to do in your retirement years. Many communities are offering avenues to work with organisations in the neighbourhood.


Live well

In your fifties, health issues may not be your prime concern. But access to reliable doctors and a good hospital may start to take precedence in your seventies. All senior communities have a clinic, ambulance and nurse-on-call, but you may end up needing more than these basic facilities.


In-home nursing care post-surgery, and physiotherapy centre are other services you may want to ask for. Well into your eighties, it is possible that one may also seek assisted living services. However, these services are still in the works, and builders are planning to offer them in the next few years.


Healthcare services have scaled up and many communities today feature multi-bed hospitals with ICUs. They also have close tie-ups with trusted names. Antara Senior Living is working closely with its parent Max Healthcare to offer preventive programmes as well as specific healthcare services. Aamoksh One Eighty says it is considering tie-ups with US partners to set up memory care centres for dementia patients.


So, how do you decide which one’s for you? Referrals and inputs from residents of such projects will help. You can also get a first-hand feel of the place.


Most communities have homes that you can rent for a short period. And don’t forget to do your math on the monthly expenses. With a range of exclusive services, the cost of upkeep can get expensive, too.