Age with grace, Live with dignity, Die in peace
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The new age concept of Senior Citizen retirement homes has thrown open a whirlwind of possibilities for all stakeholders: lucrative business opportunities for the promoters, support for the senior citizenry, subject of interest for the children of the senior citizens.
These homes are portrayed as colorful and safe havens for retired senior citizenry coupled with absentee children care but on closer look, they seem to have inherent pitfalls in the intent and implementation of the model. While some are service oriented, some of them are manifesting as commercial exploitations where senior citizens suffer in silence. They are absolutely run on commercial motive, the image and aura built around these homes in terms of charity, benevolence, senior empathy is a paradox. They are turning out in reality, as liabilities to the incumbents and their progeny instead of being assets for now and future?
As per the statistics of Elderly in India Report (Feb 2016) by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, there are around 103 Million Elders (8.6% of the current total population from 5.6% decades ago). In 2025, it is estimated that every 5th person will be 60+. The average life expectancy of a senior citizen is sixteen years after attaining sixty years of age.
While this is the gross level statistics of the nation, we have the new aged senior citizens from lower, upper and affluent class aspiring to live in independence, be of least burden to their children, pursue their left out interests of earning life, lead a life of contentment strictly managed by their own income. Most of them have their children located away from their place of stay.
These are the target clientele for the new Conceptual Senior Citizen Retirement Homes. The stigma attached with the old age homes is slowly disappearing with the colorful lifestyle/image/branding portrayed in public brochures. There is mushrooming of these homes as hybrid entities of senior citizen homes plus real estate ventures.
Most of these project assets, facilities, amenities are developed from the funding of the incumbent senior citizens or their children. They are also marketed as their own properties to be bequeathed to their children if they want to reside later. An evolving, laudable concept should be a win-win for every stakeholder group, the seniors, the promoters and the children. Interesting story of how an asset turns out to be a perpetual liability for now and future? The issues in these homes have been highlighted in the recent HDFC-Money Life Survey Findings.
While some of these homes are service minded, some of them are pure commercial ventures no holds barred, exploiting the vulnerability of senior citizens and the absentee children care. In fact, they are marred by oppressive unilateral terms and conditions, non-committal service levels, arbitrary service charges, deprivation of critical care in remote locations, usurping of common assets by the promoters not providing due undivided share though developed from the senior funds etc. etc. At the time of marketing the properties, they provide no window or predictability to the future service levels and costs or even if committed, they are flouted and silently tolerated by the voiceless.
Very lucrative model which yields commercial returns to the promoters in perpetuity with the investment from seniors to create assets, maintain assets, sale/rent of assets, recycle assets and hook the successive generations.
There is a disparity in income levels of these seniors making the common minimum unaffordable to the bottom layer. Mostly this segment, have wound up their erstwhile establishments lured by colorful brochures offering facilities. With mounting medical expenditure, inability to pay the costs of these homes from the dwindling interests of their deposits, the woes are many. Notably there is no exit option or it comes with a high price. Not able to pay the service charges increased at will, not able to avail critical care services with untrained man power at unaffordable rates, not able to take private help due to oppressive one sided terms and conditions, no emotional support seniors are increasingly getting trapped behind these iron rails. Dumping of these seniors to their kith and kin during terminal ailment/death on non-affordability of service charges is also quite common.
The affluent children who throw money to the promoters, passing their responsibilities are seldom aware of/insensitive to the loss of dignity, self-esteem, ignominy their elders suffer from. These institutions lack processes and ride on some cherry pick case studies for publicity, pomp and show. The seniors are mortally afraid and scared to voice their concerns due to their vulnerabilities, dependencies and negligence of their kith and kin.
This is compounded by non-monitoring of functioning of these homes by Regulatory authorities even though court decrees and Government orders exist. There are violations as per the real estate approval rules in terms of surrender of common amenities. There are violations of not registering for senior services under statute. A careful scrutiny of their statutory payments, taxes might reveal exemptions, waivers sought on the pretext of custodians of seniors and highlight the defaults causing revenue loss to the state exchequer. They are neither governed by rules of Senior citizen homes nor norms and rules of real estate. It is compounded because the seniors have less access to Government redress mechanisms.
High time, this business model colorfully portrayed as a peace and harmonious living but underneath built on strong commercial exploitation of the vulnerable and neglected is regulated, monitored by Government and Eminent Citizenry.
There should be strict enforcement of Real Estate Regulation Act provisions
There should be enforcement of registration under Senior Citizen Homes
There should be strong implementation of participatory governance (Decreed under court verdicts and GOs) by the fund providers in these homes, instead of autocracy.
Senior citizens should be provided an undivided ownership and access as a matter of right having funded the project assets so that essential services are never denied.
In the absence of the above, there should be a lowest common minimum charges prescribed for the lower income segment for essential services to live on their own if trapped in.
The concept in itself is great but needs an ombudsman.
If you have put your elders in any of these homes, you have to wake up to the reality. Do not hesitate to blow the whistle when it matters and before guilt engulfs you. All is not well everywhere every time. Support this petition to break the Ominous Silence and Secure the future of Seniors. You will help known and unknown elders in the cause.
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