Senior Living Plan Should be On Everyone’s List Irrespective Of Age: Mohit Nirula, CEO-Columbia Pacific Communities

India currently is growing towards becoming a country with more number of ageing people. The senior population in India is growing fast with over 20 million elders who stay alone, and the number is slated to rise further in the next two decades. However, when it comes to organized senior care and senior care services, India is still at a nascent stage.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent challenges have only brought the immediate need of senior living all the more. From inability to access basic necessities during the lockdown to losing out their personal space due to remote working, the pandemic presented many challenges to both seniors living alone as well those in mixed family environments. Not to forget the loneliness that came along with living in isolation during pandemic.

Realty Buzz IN got an opportunity to speak to Mohit Nirula, CEO of the Columbia Pacific Communities (CPC), India’s largest senior living community operating in five cities and nine locations across south India, on the need of senior living in the country and other related aspects.

Mohit Nirula, CEO of the Columbia Pacific Communities (CPC)

Senior living always had a very negative connotation in Indian society. Please elaborate how and why is the perception changing now?

Children serving and looking after the needs of parents in their old age is a cultural and social norm in India. Consequently, “old-age homes” gained a sometimes undeserved reputation of being the abode of those elderly who had been abandoned by their children.

It is not surprising that both parents and children have balked at the idea of considering a community designed for seniors because of the societal impression associated with it. With the passage of time, the urban middle class India is now subject to many societal and sociological changes. These include better health care, longer life expectancy, a smaller family size, children empowered by education and free to pursue their careers and aspirations outside their home cities.

As a consequence, an increasingly large number of parents are already living alone and independently. They are physically capable, financially independent and free from all their responsibilities. They now wish a solution that allows them to offload the responsibility of day to day chores to a single service provider while liberating themselves to pursue their passions and interests. Senior living communities now provide both the parents and the children the confidence of reliable support and the consequent peace of mind they need.

What is the demand-supply mismatch you see in the senior living segment in India?

The CII report of 2018 on Senior Living estimates a need for 200,000 homes in senior living communities in urban India. The current supply is 10,000 homes with another 10,000 in various stages of development.

The long gestation period and construction time of such communities and the rapidly growing population in the 55 years + demographic implies this mismatch will only grow in the short to medium term.

What are some of the basic amenities that are must in a senior living community?

A well designed and well-served Senior Living Community should ensure that all day to day necessities of residents are fulfilled by the service team. Secondly, the service provider should have the expertise and knowledge to devise and conduct a wellness and wellbeing program that keep residents physically active, mentally alert and intellectually stimulated in a socially engaging environment.

Finally, the medical and paramedical support should be able to address the current and evolving needs of the residents as they age over time.

Why should someone choose Columbia Pacific Communities? What extra features or services does it offer?

Residents at a Columbia Pacific community will benefit from its four-decade long experience and expertise in this field. This experience is reflected in the design of our communities, it is manifest in our philosophy of “Positive Ageing” that helps our residents to live healthier for longer by disconnecting age from ageing.

Finally, our association with Columbia Asia Hospitals as our Healthcare partners brings to our residents the expertise of the best professionals in health care – in the communities and at their hospitals.

In the current unprecedented times of the pandemic, do you see a surge in the demand for senior-centric living arrangements?  

There is an unprecedented increase in demand – both for ready to move-in homes in the nine communities that we serve and at the communities under development. We have a waiting list of potential residents who are keen to rent or buy on resale homes at our existing communities.

There is also a 4x increase in organic traffic to our website and a marked reduction in the age group of potential buyers for the communities under development. Increasingly, we see buyers in the age group of 50 – 60 approaching us individually and with friends in their pursuit of a lifestyle that liberates them and their children from worrying about each other.

With the changing Indian demographic, do you suggest everyone to have a senior living plan well in place for the future?

I do believe that “senior living plans” bring in an element of age and ageing that is quite unnecessary. In my opinion, a lifestyle that is liberating and an arrangement that allows residents to be the best of themselves is extremely desirable and something that should be on every person’s list of aspirations, irrespective of their age.