Indian culture has always followed the tradition of the four Ashramas of life – Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, and Sanyasa. These ashramas are designed according to a person’s age and each of these has a specific set of responsibilities assigned to them. Vanaprastha Ashram is the phase when you give up your home to your heirs and head to the “vana” or forest to lead a life of contemplation and detachment. This phase starts “when you start noticing wrinkles on your skin and grey hair,” Manu Smriti says.
The system of Vanaprastha ashrama now has a new meaning. Instead of completely detaching themselves from their lives, older adults have now started making provisions for financial as well as physical security for their later life. Some start their senior planning as early as in their 30s. People make investments and wills well in advance. They don’t believe in retiring at a certain age, instead, they remain active and work to ensure their financial independence.
Instead of moving to “Vana”, Indian older adults now choose their own senior living environment. While some create home-stays and enjoy social interactions with tourists and visitors, there are many who prefer to surround themselves with like-minded seniors at senior living communities.
The Need for Assisted Living in India
Assisted living for seniors is a concept that is fast taking root in India. With more than 114 million of the population falling in the senior citizen category and more than 15 million older adults staying alone, senior living societies are in demand like never before. Senior living societies offer proper care and amenities to the residents, including medical care, on-call doctors and trained nurses, staff for housekeeping and laundry, etc.
This makes senior living facilities very attractive for older adults. They not only spend time with similarly-aged people but can also indulge in activities of their interest. They know that they have easy access to medical facilities in times of emergency. In short, older adults are happy in senior living societies.
Columbia Pacific Communities
One such happy senior citizen is Mr. Ramasami. The 78-year-old has been residing at Serene Pelican by Columbia Pacific Communities, a senior living community in Puducherry. This group has created senior living communities across five cities in India. They aim to create new and meaningful connections between older adults that last a lifetime.
HappyAging spoke to Mr. Ramasami on his views on aging in modern India. Mr. Ramasami has taken his retirement very well and now has his own blog on which he posts insights about aging in India in poetry form. Recently, Mr. Ramasami wrote a poem on “Modern Vanaprastha”.
Why should a senior consider living in senior living spaces?
When Mr. Ramasami’s wife passed away two years ago, his children were worried about him staying alone. Mr. Ramasami and his son explored various senior living communities. In the end, Mr. Ramasami found that Serene Pelican served all his needs. His son was satisfied as well.
One of the main reasons why older adults prefer senior living communities is that they offer 24×7 medical support as well as support for housekeeping and laundry. Many communities have transport facilities for older adults as well as help for daily activities like banking, paying bills, etc. Mr. Ramasami mentioned that the medical care offered at Serene Pelican is impeccable. Along with nearby hospitals and easy access to medical stores, they also hold regular medical camps for health check-ups of the residents. He further said that they hold activities that are both interactive and learning-based to keep the seniors in residence engaged.
Mr. Ramasami said that the residents are provided food at correct times and the staff makes sure that the seniors are comfortable at all times. There are intercoms and alarms that can be used for alerting during emergencies. There are nurses who make sure that the residents take their medicines on time. Residents are provided separate villas so that the privacy of each senior is maintained while being connected to each other. This way, the community ensures that the comfort of each older adult is assured.
Growing Older in Modern India and Modern Vanaprastha
With the development of medical technology and access to medical facilities at affordable prices, India has made a huge leap to make living easier for older adults. Seniors are now allotted separate queues at all places to facilitate easy movement. They are given preference in hospitals for admittance and treatment.
Many newer structures are built keeping older adults and their limitations in mind. If you visit malls and airports, you will often find that there are wheelchairs and other aids to help the elderly. Even railway stations have evolved to accommodate the needs of older travellers. In general, India is evolving into a senior-friendly country. The digital growth in India has further empowered older adults in ensuring their safety and happiness.
Mr. Ramasami mentioned that no longer does Vanaprastha mean leaving behind your possessions and going to the forest. Instead, older adults are more empowered now and choose to live life on their own terms. Older adults have now become more technology savvy. They can remain connected with their loved ones even if they are far away.
Another important aspect is financial planning for your senior years. Mr. Ramasami started thinking about the prospect of living alone years ago and had started saving money accordingly. Smart savings and some help from his son are now proving beneficial for living in a senior community.
In fact, the term “seenagers” was coined for older adults who are willing to grow their skills to match the advancements in technology. You can see these seniors making video calls to their grandchildren and using smartphones easily. Case in point, Mr. Ramasami himself runs a blog!
Message to Others
Mr. Ramasami signed off with a message to other seniors. He highly recommended senior living communities and said that all older adults should try to stay in such communities instead of staying alone. He said that the biggest motivation for him to stay in the community is that his children are able to live free from worries about him as they know that he will be taken care of well.
India has evolved tremendously in the last few years and is now inclusive of older adults as well. Seniors too have taken life in their hands and are progressing along with the new changes. It is good to see that the advancing society understands the needs of older adults. These steps taken to ensure that aging is a happy and healthy part of life is heartening.
What are your views on this topic? Do you think senior living communities are a blessing for older adults? Do share your opinions with us in the comments below.
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