Lifestyle changes for seniors are result of better financial security and availability of age-friendly activities
The gradual nuclearisation of traditional Indian joint families has significantly changed the way seniors look at their retirement planning and post-retirement living. Traditionally, in the joint family structure, seniors enjoyed a safety net of being cared for by the younger members of the family. But today, this safety net is gradually weakening with the nuclearisation of families. This trend is expected to continue in the years to come as nations across the world are experiencing a steady decline in population growth with the baby boomers now almost reaching the retirement age.
As families become smaller in size with fewer members, seniors are beginning to embrace a whole new lifestyle. Lifestyle changes for seniors are primarily a result of better financial security and the availability of age-friendly opportunities to explore life. One of our recent surveys on the state of seniors in India revealed that nearly 80 percent of seniors in urban India prefer to live independently. The aspirations and changing lifestyles of this demographic cohort have given rise to a growing demand for professional and specialised senior care services that have profound social and economic benefits for a middle-income country like India.
Senior Care: A Sunrise Sector for India
The percentage of senior citizens in India’s population is growing at a steady rate. Data reveals that the elderly population in India increased from 77 million in 2001 to 104 million in 2011. By 2050, the number is expected to reach 300 million, accounting for 12 percent of the total population of the country. This offers a plethora of economic and social opportunities to the world’s youngest nation. But efforts must be made to build and sustain a well-rounded senior care ecosystem that can comprehensively cater to the diverse and evolving needs of seniors. The inflow of patient capital and positive investor sentiment will help the sector adopt global best practices and provide high-quality services to the elderly population. Further, the existence and entry of well-established players into the senior care space augurs well for the sector and will give India a head start and help its emergence as a globally sought-after destination for senior care services.
Additionally, the efforts of the private sector players need to be adequately complemented with corresponding support from the policymakers both at the central and state levels (health is a state subject) to create senior-friendly infrastructures and products and services. The COVID-19 pandemic helped us realise the inequities and inadequacies in India’s healthcare delivery system, especially for the elderly populations. As a high-risk cohort, seniors could not step out for regular medical check-ups and had to remain indoors until it was safe to visit the healthcare facilities.
However, the government of India’s proactive recognition of the significance of the sector demonstrates its strong intent to ensure the well-being of the elderly populations and to create business opportunities for service providers. The Draft National Policy for Senior Citizens 2020 - a welcome step in this direction - promises an enabling environment for a robust senior care ecosystem in the country. India’s commitment to the well-being of seniors was further evidenced when it launched the ‘Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030), the initiative in line with the United Nations’ vision for the elderly populations. The initiative has triggered healthy conversations around the existing gaps in India’s geriatric services and the efforts needed to strengthen them to help seniors realise their potential for a safe and healthy life.
Marking a paradigm shift in senior care service
The Covid-19 pandemic and its direct impact on elderly populations have considerably accelerated the need for professional and specialised senior care services. Preliminary research by the University of Chicago revealed that the seniors who lived on their own during the pandemic were at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus than those of their counterparts who lived in senior living facilities. There is, as a result, an increasing realisation that senior living facilities are better equipped to cater to the diverse healthcare and psychological needs of seniors and offer them the necessary support in times of an unforeseen crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Senior living facilities are playing a critical role in enabling a happy and hassle-free ageing experience for seniors. The key drivers are as follows:
1. Senior-friendly infrastructure and design
Senior living facilities, unlike normal housing societies or retirement homes, are specially designed keeping in mind the diverse and evolving needs of the seniors. Therefore, every aspect of the facility is designed with thoughtful attention and care. These facilities have senior-friendly features such as grab bars, bathroom fittings, stairlifts, bed railings, configured rooms, rounded walls, an emergency button at a reachable height, and wheelchair access with ramps. This further enhances the quality of life for seniors, ensuring a best-in-class experience for them.
2. Geriatric services
Elderly populations in India have age-related health issues such as – diabetes, hypertension, and blood pressure. Seniors with such medical conditions need greater intervention and care daily. Senior living facilities are well equipped to ensure their holistic well-being through a blend of lifestyle and life care services, delivering a comprehensive and seamless experience. This makes senior living facilities well-suited for a healthy and happy post-retirement life for seniors.
3. Community and peer engagement
Loneliness is a growing menace, recognised globally as one of the major factors affecting senior health. A 2017 Commonwealth Fund study across 11 high-income countries discovered that 10-30 per cent of seniors of 65 and older reported feeling isolated from others. A senior living community provides proximity and easy access to others in the same boat. It encourages interaction and peer engagement that can help seniors better deal with loneliness. In the current pandemic scenario, where social distancing might lead to social isolation for seniors, a senior living community can provide engagement opportunities in a controlled environment.
The senior care sector which is still at a nascent stage of growth in India is expected to witness a steady rise in demand for professional and specialised services in the next few years. With policy support from the government and the active participation of the private sector players, the senior care sector will play a crucial role in enabling a hassle-free ageing experience for seniors in India.
The author is Executive Chairperson, Antara
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed are the author’s own, and Outlook Money does not necessarily subscribe to them. Outlook Money shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.