Senior housing projects: Bhiwadi leads the way

[] Developers in Bhiwadi have managed to succeed in providing one of the most need-based housing requirements in India – homes and communities for senior citizens. We look at how this became possible

When Ramakanth Sharma bought an apartment in a senior housing project in Bhiwadi, his decision was based more on the property’s affordability, than the concept of senior housing. Sharma himself had no plans to settle over there and it was merely an investment that he could afford.

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Between 2004 and 2007, the project’s developer continued to invite him to various community engagement programmes at the project. Initially, only a few senior citizens shifted to the project. However, when his son took up a job in the United States, Sharma decided to pack his bags and move to Bhiwadi’s senior housing project, despite a niggling feeling that they would be living in an old age centre.

Within a short time, Sharma and his wife understood the advantages of senior citizens having their own homes, in a neighbourhood with people of the same age group and with all the necessary facilities, like healthcare, etc.

Growing need

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India has 98 million people, who are aged above 55. This number is growing steadily, at 3.5% per annum. In an analysis of 135 urban cities, with a total population of 223 million and 52 million households, as many as 12.8 million families have senior citizens. The old age dependency ratio now stands at 12.6, up from 10.6 in 1991. According to the United Nations, India will have 118 million people over the age of 60 years, by 2017.

From a real estate perspective, the market size for retirement homes, is expected to touch Rs 4,000 crore, by 2018. Several developers in Bhiwadi, were quick to spot this opportunity. However, only a few locations, like Bhiwadi, Coimbatore and Pune, have witnessed success in this segment, due to proximity with the main city centre, better climatic conditions and execution of the project in right spirit.

Lifestyle and perceptions witness change

Brotin Banerjee, MD and CEO of Tata Housing, feels that the concept of senior living is slowly gaining traction but unlike in the west, it will take a bit longer for this segment to mature, here. With the traditional concept of families witnessing a change and with an increase in disposable incomes, senior citizens are gradually accepting this idea, without any social stigma attached to it. Today’s globe-trotting consumers are demanding an active lifestyle, after retirement, he says.

[] Bhiwadi: A safe market for end-users and investors

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“Buyers for senior living homes are self-sustaining retired/about-to-retire people (or in the age group of 50 and above), whose children reside away from them or outside India, or senior NRIs who are accustomed to such facilities in developed countries and are now returning to their home country. Research suggests that the demand for such senior homes is over three lakh units in urban centres. Presently, only 3,000 units are available in the market,” explains Banerjee.

Affordable housing, for senior citizens

One reason, why senior housing succeeded in Bhiwadi, is the affordable price point. Developers have been conscious of the fact that senior citizens have limited resources and no source of regular income. As Sharma points out, “If such projects would be costly, most of the retired seniors would not be able to afford them.” Data by Jones Lang LaSalle India indicates there are about 30 more senior living projects in the pipeline in India – seven in Bengaluru, three in Chennai, three in Goa and various single projects in other cities.

Irrespective of whether developers have managed to tap into a lucrative emerging market or created a differentiator by providing houses for a cause, senior living has definitely been a success story in Bhiwadi.

Bhiwadi’s tryst with senior housing

  • Bhiwadi was the first mover in the senior housing segment in India.
  • Affordable senior housing and quality lifestyle have been the key to its success.
  • Its success helped to dispel the perception that senior housing is akin to old age homes.
  • Bhiwadi’s experiment has served as a case study on providing lifestyle living to senior citizens.

(The writer is CEO, Track2Realty)

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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