Coronavirus | Pandemic pushing up demand for senior living units, say realtors

Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities at an event>
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Niranjan Hiranandani, National President, NAREDCO, said since the pandemic began, there has been demand for homes from the buyer segment which is above the age of 55


In what has increasingly become the new way of living — mostly indoors, highly alert about hygiene, and in preparedness of medical emergencies — realtors say demand for housing units specifically catering to senior living is on the rise.

Niranjan Hiranandani, National President, NAREDCO, said since the pandemic began, there has been demand for homes from the buyer segment which is above the age of 55, still independent and leading an active life.


“Homes for this segment are referred to as ‘senior living units’, and these are mostly in gated communities. Defined by senior citizen-friendly architecture and design features, they offer facilities and convenient services and access to medical facilities. Some projects also offer medical support and holistic healthcare. This is a segment totally different from ‘assisted living’ for senior citizens which is largely, institutionalised,” he explained.


The pandemic, he said, has made those aged above 55 years, independent and active want to move to a home located in a community where they get safety and security along with services and amenities which add meaning to their lives – be it entertainment and social interaction or wellness options. Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai are among the cities where they’ve witnessed demand, though Mumbai is less affordable and a larger number of this segment are buying in peripheral areas in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), such as Panvel, Navi Mumbai and Thane, he added.


Anuj Puri, Chairman – ANAROCK Property Consultants, said COVID-19 could very well reshape the future of the senior living segment in India as demand for such residences is rising amidst the pandemic-induced uncertainties. “Presently, there is only limited supply in this segment. As per our research, there are as many as 55 projects (developed or ongoing) by top 12 players in this segment of which 60% are in tier 2 and 3 cities and the remaining 40% in Tier 1 cities,” he said.


Most of the existing senior living projects have sprung up either in the outskirts of the major cities or largely in tier II and III cities across the country. “Bhiwadi in NCR, Neral in Mumbai, Talegaon in Pune and Devanahalli in Bengaluru are some of the prominent locations around Tier 1 cities, while prominent tier 2 cities include Coimbatore, Puducherry, Kodaikanal, Vadodara, Bhopal, Jaipur, Mysuru, Dehradun, Kasauli and Kanchipuram,” he said.


Region-wise, the southern cities have nearly 69% share of the total 55 projects, he said, adding that Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore, Kodaikanal, Mysuru, Puducherry, and Kanchipuram are among the prominent destinations.


Explaining the reasons, Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities, said over the last year, COVID-19 and its impact on society in general and on seniors living on their own in specific have caused a “dramatic and ongoing” surge in the demand. Columbia Pacific has over 1600 residential units under management in five cities. “Furthermore, the age group of future residents seeking accommodation in senior living communities has dropped with the 50 – 60-year-old demographic keen to buy into communities under development. The increase in demand is seen in Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore, Kanchipuram and Puducherry,” he said.


According to Mr. Nirula, the reason for this uptick in demand is the contrasting experience of seniors staying in senior living communities vis a vis those staying alone or in condominium complexes with mixed families. “Residents of senior living communities were able to count on the service provider to support and fulfil all their daily needs without exposing them to the external environment. On the other hand, seniors staying on their own had to either face increased risk of exposure or go without daily conveniences,” he said.


Further, the presence of on-property medical support in senior living communities gives both the seniors and their families the peace of mind necessary in these extraordinarily difficult times. “Ring-fenced from the external environment, residents of senior living communities continue to remain socially engaged while remaining physically distanced. Neighbours, who are friends and have the same needs allow senior living communities to be havens of safety and social interactivity at a time when loneliness and anxiety have been as debilitating as the virus itself,” he Mr. Nirula added.


Concurring, S. Vasudevan from Ozone Group said that senior citizens don’t want to be isolated. “They want to participate with other age groups too. These are not the same as retirement homes. There are round-the-clock medical facilities available and go beyond food, culture security and entertainment. The importance of geriatric care has made a lot of people move into gated communities.”


What about the cost? “It is around 20% more for such units. The pandemic has shifted people’s priorities. We’ve seen people from the CBD move into gated communities even 30 km away,” he added.