Historically Indian families have always looked after elderly parents in an extended family system. Now, as more and more young professional Indians have emigrated to the USA, Australia and the UK, many Indian parents face being alone in their old age. So, I wondered what plans Indians are making for their care in old age?
Vilasini and her husband Gobi are both in their 70s. Their only son, a successful IT consultant, has settled permanently in New York. They are positively looking at retirement options that allow them to remain independent and have care and nursing facilities on hand should either of them need it.
Vilasini and I went to see her friends Ashok and Lakshmi who had just moved to SUBAHR a unique and innovative retirement village being constructed just outside Bangalore. When it was launched it was the first purpose-built assisted living facility of its kind in India.
Ashok, a marketing executive and his wife Lakshmi, a retired consultant paediatrician, explained how the idea came from a small group of Bangalore doctors who recognised that many of their elderly patients, who had no other particular physical ailments, were suffering from emotional problems stemming from the “empty nest” syndrome. When their children moved away, the joint-family system was no longer a part of their urban living and their parents’ health really suffered.
This small group of doctors talked about this and decided to set up the first assisted-living facility of its kind in India. Their vision was to create independent living units (cottages) for like-minded people. Each cottage would be set in beautiful landscaped gardens allowing each owner the opportunity to design the layout and interior of their unit. Residents would live in a safe environment, enjoy a range of on-site facilities and have excellent medical care if and when they needed it
The ‘vision’ needed marketing expertise and this was when they enlisted the marketing skills and enthusiasm of Ashok. Ashok’s wife, Lakshmi, was about to retire from her hospital in Bangalore and, like Vilasini, their only son lives in America so they too had been seriously discussing their future. When they saw the project they immediately bought two units and turned them into one. Lakshmi is just as enthusiastic as Ashok. “It’s fantastic. We have plenty of living space, a good-sized kitchen and a very nice study. We designed it with 2 en-suite bedrooms so that we can have our friends to stay.”
The development is registered as a company in which anyone may invest but as it is a retirement village at least one member of the couple who wish to be ‘permanent residents has to be 55 years of age. There are over 200 individual cottages set in beautiful landscaped gardens. Without any advertising the development has been a runaway success – word of mouth seems to have done it –
and I was surprised to learn that 70% of the people buying into the scheme are doctors.
I asked Ashok about what kind of medical facilities were offered. “We have a permanent resident doctor on the premises. In addition we have a fully functioning Health Centre, equipped for both primary & emergency health care; this includes a Pulse Oximeter, an Oxygen Concentrator and a Heartstart Monitor/ Defibrillator. There is also a nurse on duty in the Health Centre every day from 10am to 5pm for any injections, dressings and so on”. This all seemed very well thought out.
For anyone with mobility problems there’s a golf buggy system to and from the car park and additionally it gives residents easy transport to the restaurant, gym and health spa. Now in 2015 the second stage has been completed with the construction of a 20-bed hospital specialising in geriatric care – the first such facility in Karnataka, and a good source of revenue for SUBAHR.
Ashok and Lakshmi are delighted with their decision. They are living with like-minded people in a vibrant community and friends from around the world are ‘dropping in’ to see SUBAHR at first hand. Their new life is looking good as the development continues to expand with a swimming pool, tennis court and additional cottages.
And now it’s a project that has triggered international interest from overseas Indians who are planning ahead and buying for their retirement in India!