Curious case of huge gap between demand and supply of senior living homes in India

The elderly population in India is expected to grow from 116 million in 2018 to 158 million in 2025 in just four years from today.  This demographic will account for 12% of the total population. Jump forward another 25 years and the elderly population in India will grow to 300 million by 2050, almost a fifth of the country’s population.

2025 will see a staggering 67 million seniors living in our cities. While the senior population as a whole will grow by a third from 2018, the urban senior population will increase by 75% from 39 million in 2018 to 67 million in 2025.

This dramatic increase in the urban senior population needs to be seen in context of some evolving sociological paradigms.

The urban seniors in India are now faced with the specter of loneliness – the fastest accelerator of ageing and age related illnesses. This is not on account of any cultural change whereby children and parents prefer to live independent of each other. Instead, the reasons lie in a combination of smaller families, better access to quality education and career opportunities that are not limited by state or country borders in a globalized world.

This has meant that more and more children and their parents are living in different cities – many times in different countries.

Increasing life expectancy (now at 72 years for India, and higher for Urban India), dropping birth rate and better medical facilities is also rapidly altering the dependency ratio (the ratio of older dependents to the working age population). There has been a steady increase in the dependency percentage from 8% in 1950 to over 13% in 2016. What this means is that more and more seniors will need to live their life independently, for longer.

These interconnected strands of a changing society have created a massive gap between the demand for and supply of homes in communities especially designed for seniors.

As per the CII report of 2018, the demand for senior homes is in the range of 240,000 while the total number of homes available and in different stages of completion are less than 20,000. When one juxtaposes the ongoing increase in the number of seniors staying alone with the long gestation periods of creating communities, the demand-supply mismatch, unless something changes in the near future, will only increase over time.

One of the factors that prevents entrepreneurs from moving quickly to address this opportunity is the unfortunate stigma that is attached to communities for seniors.  It is very unfair that such communities are seen by society as the last resort for the destitute and the abandoned like a place where one ends up when there is no option.