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 Elderly Health

 
Retirement Villages
M G Warrier
 
“Necessity is the mother of invention” - This is true not only for scientific and technological research, but for any development in the social and even spiritual area also. In India, perhaps till a couple of decades back, care homes for the aged were a government initiative targeting mainly those below poverty line (there is no hope in sight for getting rid of the need for this line!).
And if someone who had enough assets to meet his daily needs thought of going and living in a care home, people would refuse to accept it as a normal behavior. Our social security network, through the institution of family and neighborhood interdependence, was strong enough to take care of the aged and the invalid as long as they survived.
Times are changing. And fast. These days, you will find sons and daughters working abroad, during their short visits booking villas or flats in the affectionately called ‘Retirement Villas’ as an investment proposition. You will also find old people in groups discussing about someone who has recently shifted to a Retirement Village.

Not that the values we upheld about the ‘family’ have gone down the drain, or that the present generation of youth love their parents less or vice versa. The modern lifestyle, need for everyone to go out for work and the smaller size of families have all contributed to this scenario in different measures.

Presently, arrangements for living for the well-to-do aged are available in facilities provided by big builders, some Non-Governmental Organizations or by spiritual/religious institutions. Those who are not so well-to-do depend on the mercy of government. Those who are forced to make a choice to move out of their family do it without getting much opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of their decision. In many cases, they are not able to do the necessary study or scouting before deciding on the choice of the facility. Reason being, the issue is not openly discussed in families or among friends for fear of being alleged that something is wrong within the family. This discussion is aimed at triggering a discussion among people planning to opt for the freedom of independent living in groups in Retirement Villages without foregoing the love and affection of family members.

Retirement Villages

The concept of Retirement Villages is slowly picking up in India. Essentially, Retirement Villages are a specialized category of housing complexes, meant to cater to the accommodation and lifestyle needs of retiring/retired people. Homogeneity of group and a higher level of security awareness are real advantages for this option. Although the worries about failing health, the need for personal security and companionship of people with comparable interests and needs are real concerns and would be met here more satisfactorily, the dramatic changes in lifestyle that will be forced on one should be considered very dispassionately before a choice is made, especially because reversal of decisions at this stage in life would be painful in more than one way. This rider holds good while considering any other option discussed here also.

Sponsored Retirement Villages

The housing complexes/flats let out to senior citizens for life by various social groups and private individuals/organizations come under this category. Normally, the sponsors take an initial lump sum non-refundable deposit and get reimbursed for recurring expenses by regular monthly payments out of occupant’s income (from pension/interest on savings etc) or remittances from outside. In some cases, a refundable deposit also iws accepted to take care of unexpected expenses in medical emergencies. The sponsor ensures arrangements for stay, food, and other support services including medical services and nursing assistance where necessary on a cost-sharing basis.

Where the initial deposit is high and almost equals the capital expenditure incurred by the sponsor, a right to nomination whereby a nominee can get the possession of the house/flat, subject to completing certain formalities and payment of a pre-indicated sum, when the occupant dies is part of the deal.

Ownership Residential Units
The groups of flats/houses being built by groups of like-minded individuals or builders within other residential complexes or outside come under this category. Here, a sense of ownership and a feeling of flexibility in case one changes mind about stay when letting out could be a possible advantage. However, the package of services offered by sponsors either as part of social service or business is absent here, and the groups will have to work out arrangements for all needed services by availing facilities available in the vicinity.

Hostel for Senior Citizens
The concept is yet to develop in our country. The living conditions in the state-run and NGO-sponsored old age homes and charity homes where the invalid and the aged, who do not have regular source of income or support from children or family, are forced to stay, are far from satisfactory. The right of every citizen for food, shelter and other minimum facilities for living a reasonably comfortable life needs to be protected. Regulating the common stay arrangements for senior citizens, pensioners, invalids, orphans and others who are dependent on care homes - of whatever nomenclature - and providing need-based financial support to the care homes, would be a move in the right direction from the government side.

Some related issues
As regards the resources necessary to meet this challenging effort, only the lack of political will to canalize the men, material and money now being engaged for purposes like luxurious celebrations (mentioning here the examples of the efforts to find the beginning of universe or scientific research in uninhabited parts of planet earth or in space or development of weapons for massive annihilation may divert the discussion to controversial areas, which is not my purpose!) and wars towards creative and positive purposes at least until the basic needs of every inhabitant of mother earth is met is standing in the way. Agreed, this is a great hurdle, equal in dimension to the greed which results in accumulation of wealth by individuals, families and nations through unethical means. But, if you and I start talking about it frequently, and without fear, change is not far away.

In the interregnum, large builders, hospitals and organizations in the public and private sectors could fill the gap by supporting initiatives for setting up Care Homes/Retirement Villages with all necessary linkages as part of fulfillment of their social responsibility.

Argument here is not that government should be burdened with the entire cost for the purpose. Depending on the category of occupants, cost sharing has to be built into the scheme. For example, pensioners could be asked to surrender a portion of the pension towards rentals and a certain percentage for food and asked to contribute to a medical insurance scheme to take care of health care needs. Where feasible, earning children should be made liable to meet costs of maintenance of their parents.

We are at a crossroads where traditional values are not respected universally, and self-regulation to protect human rights and social needs is yet to arrive. It is in this context that governments and corporates have a crucial role in this area.

    
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