In India, the size of the elderly population is fast growing. From 5.6 per cent in 1961, it is projected to rise to 12.4 per cent of the population by 2026, according to the Indian Journal of Medical Research. India has a high population of the elderly as better healthcare has led to increased lifespan.
The elderly were once moving out of homes because they faced abuse and neglect in the hands of their children. Senior citizens in the city are now going out of their way to ensure that they enjoy their old age the way they want. They are opting to book plush villas on retirement villages located in the outskirts of Bangalore and other cities, where household chores, food, health and other needs will be taken care of.
Dr Lata Ananthamurthy, a physicist, lost her husband two years ago and chose to live in a retirement community at Koramangala and locked up her big house in the city. Two of her children live abroad while one stays in India, but Lata does not want to impose upon them.
There is an increasing sense of independence among the elderly Dr P T Sivakumar, Additional Professor of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) agrees. He says, “Elderly people are preferring to live alone because of their personality. But this is more likely an exception than norm.” He observes the trend is noticeable across all sections of the society. “The change in the cultural, social and family values across generations does appear to contribute to this,” he said.
The trend of elders moving out is certainly picking up, said K S James, Professor and Head, Population Research Centre, Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC). “Less than 10 per cent of senior citizens in the country are pensioners and have a welfare system in place. For a better standard of living when their children move away, they seek these homes for assisted living outside as health condition and security reasons discourage them from staying alone,” he said.
Dr Meeta is a scientist and has already booked a home at Devanahalli. “I am past 45 and not married. Who will look after me in my old age? I think, living in a retirement home is a sensible idea,” she observes.
Dr K S Shekar, 75, chairman of Bangalore Hospital, along with five other doctors from the same hospital started a retirement village called ‘SuViDha’ on Kanakapura Road and lives there himself. Of the 200 homes in the village, nearly 190 are already booked by younger couples who plan to shift there after retirement. “These homes are just like any other independent houses except that they are all on the ground floor. The community has its own security arrangements, a five-bedded clinic and maids are available 24/7 to do house work,” said Dr Shekar.
The builder of ‘Serene Retirement Village’ at Hebbal, says, “We have built two retirement communities in Chennai, one in Coimbatore and another in Pondicherry in the last eight years. The community that we have built at Devanahalli in the city has a choice of one, two or three bedroom villas. About 250 villas out of 340 have been sold. We sell only to those above the age of 50.”
Nirman Shelters runs three units of retirement homes in the city. ‘Prabuddhalaya’, that has 182 homes, houses 210 senior citizens and there are another 25 of them on the waiting list, says Sushma, senior manager of the home. “The minimum age for registration is 60 years.”