The United Nations recently declared 20212030 the Decade of Healthy Aging, with WHO leading international efforts to improve the lives of older people, their families and communities. In India we have seen rapid growth in the aging population in recent years. According to a 2019 CII report, India will have 330 million people aged 60 and over by 2050, which is 18% of our total population. The advancement of medical science and technology has resulted in increased life expectancy. In 1995, the average life expectancy was 65 years, while population researchers have shown that life expectancy will reach 73 years by 2025. Improved affordability, increased life expectancy, changed family structures and the burden of disease are driving the demand for medical and non-medical care for the elderly. In the US, the senior citizen industry is well established, while the Indian senior care market is only about 1% of its size. There is a lot of leeway in India to meet the growing demand in the senior care segment. A targeted government strategy would unlock existing opportunities in the sector that have not yet been exhausted.

In addition to many challenges, the Covid-19 pandemic has also underscored the need for senior living to provide mental and emotional wellbeing to seniors in connection with health care. There are currently several senior housing facilities in India that offer wonderful surroundings and facilities based on the belief that people entering their silver years should lead active and healthy lives. In India, many forms of structured care have emphasized independent living. Given the vastness of this sector, solutions for home care, assisted living, dementia care, curated services and product providers are coming. This focused approach to elderly care significantly reduces healthcare costs. Countries like the United States have established senior care facilities that provide seniors with holistic living, peaceful and productive lives that enable and form a friendly community. As India moved forward in this business, ASLI members have studied international standards and practices in order to maintain quality standards. In addition, ASLI recently teamed up with Standardwise International, Australia to keep quality going in the future.

The Indian government has started prioritizing elderly care as a separate segment. Some of these initiatives include the National Program for Health Care for the Elderly (NPHCE) and the National Action Plan for Seniors (NAPSrC) of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment. At the same time, the private sector contributes to the mobilization of resources, to capacity building for specialized elderly care, to grassroots workers and to informal carers. Existing systems and strategies mainly focus on the lower income group. But there is a large segment of the middle-class senior citizen segment that also needs physical and emotional support to lead an active and healthy life. While they have the financial means, there is a lack of social infrastructure. At Ashiana, we create our communities that are not only senior friendly, but also protect them. Small measures such as the installation of handholds, non-slip tiles or round instead of sharp edges have significantly improved smooth daily operation. As part of holistic wellbeing, we maintain an activity calendar to enable interactive sessions to maintain the happiness index of seniors while keeping them physically active. This has ensured that our seniors stay much healthier and happier than seniors who do not do this as part of any structured care.

The Department of Housing and Urban Affairs has recognized the growing need for senior living and has issued model guidelines for developing the regulation of retirement homes to ensure that the specific needs of older people are taken into account at the planning stage. Current social constructs, coupled with the lack of information in the middle-class elderly, prevent them from investing in a standard of living. Privatization of the sector, with due support from the government, will help India meet global standards of living for seniors. The development of comprehensive strategies and gradual collaboration between all stakeholders is required to promote healthy and active aging.

Where retirement homes might be a compulsion, retirement homes are a choice of life. Elderly care facilities have the potential to fuel the silver economy and provide seniors with a second inning in a life of dignity. The priority is to promote active and healthy aging rather than the dependent and inactive lifestyle common in old age.

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The views expressed above are the author’s own.

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