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Community living isn't well known in India and has a stigma among those who do know it. Yet embracing it could be a boon to its ageing population.

Elderly Indians are facing higher rates of isolation. Mohan Kumar, CDC Global, Wikimedia Commons Credits CC BY 2.0

Community living isn’t well known in India and has a stigma among those who do know it. Yet embracing it could be a boon to its ageing population.

Community living — a form of aged care common and often first-choice in Australia and other developed countries — is relatively rare, and even shunned in India.

Yet it might offer the world’s most populous country one of its best solutions to housing and caring for its rapidly ageing population.

India is braced to feel the force of the globally ageing population harder than most. It has about 140 million people aged 60 and above. By 2050, it is predicted that 19 percent of India’s population will be in this bracket.

This fits a worldwide trend — the World Health Organization and the United Nations declared 2021–2030 the Decade of Healthy Ageing. A robust rise in the ageing population has prompted demand for proper housing and health facilities to suit a society with more older people.

This is very important for households in India’s middle- and lower-income classes, which are most vulnerable to a changing society that has seen India’s traditional joint family system degenerate.

More elderly people live alone as their adult offspring pursue careers and start nuclear households. It breaks the tradition of keeping multiple generations under the same roof and leaves more senior citizens isolated, without the same degree of practical and emotional support from family.

It’s hard to reverse a cultural change once it starts. To stop senior citizens becoming isolated, community living — in simple terms retirement homes — could be the best substitute. Such a model offers staffed, around-the-clock assistance for elderly residents and is rich with the potential for tailored care.

About 35 percent of India’s ageing population stays alone but India’s contribution to the global senior living industry is less than 1 per cent. That leaves a lot of senior citizens in need and an untapped market for community living providers.

Aside from supply issues, a lot of older people in India aren’t aware of their community living options. For those that do know, there’s often a stigma attached to families that send their elderly to another place.

It’s seen as unacceptable by many, even though it can eradicate loneliness and provides an environment for older people to spend quality time with others of the same age group. The demand is there, even if cultural attitudes are lagging a bit behind.

There are about 57 senior living projects operating in India, ranging from affordable facilities targeting middle-income groups to ones aimed at the most affluent sections of society.

Affordable community living places are available for rent starting from INR₹17,000 (USD$205) to ₹30,000 per month ($361), based in Haridwar, Dehradun, Jaipur, Mathura, Coimbatore and Bengaluru.

Some of these community living arrangements cater to lower- and middle-income sections of society, with very nominal maintenance charges of roughly INR 200 ($2.41) per month. A couple can secure their living for around INR 10,000 ($120.31) to INR 12,000 ($144.38) per month.

Rather than pay a monthly fee to stay, affordable living facilities also offer one-time fees for lifetime residency. For obtaining lifetime residency, couples could pay about INR₹3,00,000 (USD$3,609) and a single person could pay ₹2,00,000 ($2406).

Even at a base level, these facilities offer a suite of medical services as well as religious spaces and activities for leisure and learning, including libraries.

At the other end of the spectrum, the wealthiest flat-based community living facilities charge a one-time fee starting from INR₹24,00,000 (USD$288,648) for a space of about 76 square metres to INR₹60,00,000 ($721,647) for about 137 square metres.

These facilities have more extravagant amenities, including full-scale hospitals, cinemas, spas, gyms, clean natural environments and clubhouses.

The spectrum of elderly care-based community living highlights the role of wealth in the quality of care.

It’s possible to bridge this gap, but that fix can only be addressed with commitment and policy. Funding community living and giving incentives like tax exemptions to organisations that build this kind of housing could spark a boom.

The government could also offer free land packages to certain registered bodies — such as non-government organisations, trusts and cooperative societies — so they could offer affordable retirement homes to seniors.

Such a model might be a ‘Senior Citizen Cooperative Society’ — a representative group of senior citizens — that could receive land free or at a concessional rate and benefit accordingly, securing legal titles to apartments or at least subsidised construction of homes.

Dr Amit Seth is Professor at School of Leadership & Management and Director in MR NewGen IEDC at Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies in Faridabad, India.

Dr Anandajit Goswami is Professor and Director at the School of Behavioural and Social Sciences at Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies in Faridabad, India.

Anita Prasad is a PhD Scholar and Research Assistant in the Department of Economics at Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies in Faridabad, India.

Dr Seth, Dr Goswami and Ms Prasad’s research has been funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR).

Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.

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