Pandemic underlines need for healthy & active living solutions for elderly

By Ankur Gupta, Joint Managing Director, Ashiana Housing

Till now, 1.8 percent of India's overall population has been reported to be affected by the daunting impact of corona virus and this means that the remaining 98% of the population could be still vulnerable to the infections as stated by the Union Health Ministry. Additionally, as per a study by NGO Agewell Foundation, the COVID-19 situation has affected the health condition of 26 per cent of the elderly population in the country. This means that three-fourth of senior population is still susceptible to the corona virus. While there is a greater emphasis on the ailing seniors, what can be done to ensure an overall healthy living environment for rest of the non-affected seniors?

More than other age groups, the seniors rely on social connection and the need for it is now more pronounced than ever. The elderly need a helping hand and people to take care of them, constantly. Industry projections have already indicated that the number of 60+ age group citizens will rise to 14.3 crore within this year, and 17.3 crore by 2026 amounting to over 10% and 12% of the estimated total population, respectively. And these numbers only suggest that we need to ramp up and equip ourselves for taking care of India’s elderly population, at the earliest.

When we talk about taking care of this age group, we need to understand their need from two aspects –one, are we ready to provide them with safe communities? The other being the most important, are we well-equipped and organized to take care of their well-being? Especially, when they are tremendously affected due to everyday fatalities and with the infection being at its peak. Living in a constant environment of uncertainty has created a lot of distress among our senior citizens. The same study by NGO Agewell Foundation also states that 63% of the elderly developed symptoms of depression due to social isolation and an increase of over 50% was seen among them under mental health disorders including anxiety, sleeplessness, depression and fatigue. Therefore, a place that our seniors can call home, providing solutions for their everyday challenges is the need of the hour. Consequently, addressing the above mentioned problems on priority, approaching them with pragmatic outlook and understanding their impact as a public health issue is extremely necessary.  

From last year till now, Covid-19 pandemic has spurred many challenges and has changed the lives of many, forever. Today, the second wave has hit us harder across all age groups, and created an unprecedented stress on all sectors, calling for a better support infrastructure.

The raging pandemic has shaped preferences among seniors as to how they would like to live their lives while feeling safe and secure. Their likings include better access to basic amenities like groceries, daily essentials, easy access to healthcare facilities, availability of medicines, open and green spaces, and engaging in everyday activities to keep them healthy and active termed as Active Senior Living. Far different than ‘old age homes’, these senior living communities have moved way beyond the regular conveniences and provides 360° solutions for everyday challenges. At Senior Living Homes, one gets the same premium lifestyle, available in a normal luxury project topped up with age-friendly design, regular engagement activities with similar age group communities, support environment for maintaining physical as well as mental health. Also, these communities have Care Home facilities, which makes these living spaces a complete solution for providing a healthy and active lifestyle. Today, the seniors are more aware about the choices at hand in the market and independently make informed decisions to opt for senior living communities as per their preferences. 

Real estate players operating senior living projects also understand that seniors want to reconnect with themselves, rekindle their old passions and build new friendships in a safe, protected and sanitized environment. Especially, after retirement, the component of relaxation takes precedence over every other feeling. With this in mind, developers proactively are catering to the needs of senior residents and helping them in ageing with poise by ensuring a lifestyle that is healthy, carefree and independent. The advent of COVID-19 has further increased interest in senior living projects as safety parameters take precedence over other factor such as location. Factors such as large open spaces, and enhanced access to healthcare are also driving the interest of the seniors towards tier-II and tier-III cities.

The continued pandemic and moving forward with the assessments of the third wave hitting us within the passing of this year, are surely bringing a dramatic shift in the perspective of senior living players. The pandemic will continue to bring new challenges in the system and one has to constantly come up with innovations to add value and make the senior cohort feel safer, secure, and connected. But a bigger question looms at us - once the Covid-19 is behind us, would the pandemic bring in a tectonic shift in our mindset to recognize and accept the need for providing optimum living experience for our elders or would it be status quo?