The following article has been shared by our guest author – Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities.
In order that we appreciate how Senior Living Communities are redefining Senior Care, we must first understand how the needs of senior citizens in India have evolved over time and why there is an ever-increasing demand for a solution for their needs.
Indian traditions and culture have placed the responsibility of looking after elderly parents on the children. The joint family with defined roles by gender and age has been the foundation of Indian society since times immemorial.
Over time, several factors – higher levels of education, open borders, ease of travel and the desire to not be limited by geography has resulted in the new generation consisting of smaller families (fewer children) and a transition from joint families to nuclear families.
Consequently, the percentage of cases – especially in urban, middle-class India, where the parents are now living on their own is very high and will only increase at an accelerated rate with time. With the passage of time, the needs of senior citizens keep changing.
There are five specific issues related to old age that need to be addressed:
- Dependence on external resources to be able to fulfill their day to day needs.
- Decreased social interaction and increased loneliness as their radius of mobility keeps reducing.
- Activities and opportunities to keep seniors physically fit, mentally alert, intellectually stimulated, spiritually engaged in an active social environment.
- Reducing physical and emotional distances between them and their loved ones.
- Medical care and attention
In the past, being a resident of an old age home or a retirement community carried with it an unnecessary and undeserved stigma. Residents of such communities were deemed to have been abandoned by their children.
Senior Care Communities, in order to be successful, must be seen to:
- Be the preferred option of its residents instead of being the refuge for those with no options
- Fulfil the previously listed five needs for their residents.
Senior Care communities must therefore:
1. First and foremost be communities – in their design, operation and occupation. For a community to be good for its residents, the homes within must be the premier home of the residents. Many communities fail to become communities because the buyers bought the asset to be their “second” home.
2. Half-empty communities, in fact, increase the feeling of loneliness rather than dispelling it. The size of the community, the number of homes, the stable occupancy levels are all important criteria to ensure that the residential and common spaces feel like a community and encourage social engagement.
3. The service model offered by such communities should ensure “zero headaches”. All the day to day chores for which seniors had to depend on “external resources” should now be taken over by the service providers. This should include daily chores, weekly and monthly activities. This would include housekeeping, maintenance, technological support, food and beverage, etc. The service provider should be able to provide assistance with access to financial and legal experts while taking care of any administrative requirements that residents may have.
4. The wellness and wellbeing activities calendar should be organized to give residents the opportunity to engage meaningfully in social activities. The calendar should be designed by experts and ensure that each activity contributes towards keeping residents fitter and stronger – physically, mentally, intellectually and spiritually for longer. The physical design of the community public spaces should allow for different spaces for such activities.
5. With technology being such a driver for change, it is important that we use it as an enabler to reduce the effect of physical distance between the residents and their loved ones in a different part of the world. We should be able to ensure that the family feels connected and aware of all the activities and events in each others’ lives. Today, apps help us track what one has eaten, how many steps have been walked, which film has been booked or yoga class attended. Being able to know all of this seamlessly and in real-time allows for an emotional connect to be established and strengthened irrespective of the physical distance.
Finally, good senior care communities either possess or have a strong relationship with a quality Healthcare provider. This includes day to day attention, a relationship between the community doctor and the resident – extending to a relationship with a resident’s specialist doctors.
As we have seen, increasingly parents being on their own is more a consequence of circumstances and less about being unloved or abandoned. Furthermore, parents prefer to remain independent. The seniors today look forward to the “second innings” of their life to be more fulfilling and have the means to make it so. They have fulfilled their responsibilities to their parents, their children, their professional careers, to society and to the nation. They have the energies, the desire and the financial capabilities of finally being able to indulge themselves.
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