Pune (India): Madan Gopal, a 68-year-old former banker, and his wife, Sumita, decided years ago to invest a huge chunk of their savings in buying a three-bedroom retirement home in the western Indian city of Pune.
For €50,000, they live in a thoughtfully designed senior residential complex with all the trappings of luxury. Both their children live abroad.
"We have amenities that promote a healthy, full, enjoyable and sociable life for seniors. Moreover, we have forged great friendships here," said Sunita Gopal.
Families like the Gopals are part of a growing trend of wealthier Indians who are moving into senior home complexes and gated communities catering exclusively to India's burgeoning market for seniors.
Properties include retirement retreats, assisted living homes, convalescent centres, senior living homes and hospice homes.
"The demand for communities designed specifically with seniors in mind is going to see exponential growth in the coming years. There are several drivers for this increase in demand," Mohit Nirula, CEO of Columbia Pacific Communities, a senior living service, told DW.
Nirula added that there is a growing segment of senior citizens in India who tend to prefer living separately from their adult children.
"This is becoming the preferred option and senior living communities represent the ideal solution for this demographic," said Nirula.
Tapping into India's ageing population
Although India has overtaken China as the world's most populous country, population trends and forecasts undertaken by the government and several other agencies show that India's older population is on the rise and its total fertility rates are on the decline.
"India is adding between 5 to 6 million senior citizens to its population every year. Every fifth Indian will be above the age of 60 by 2050," added Nirula.
According to an analysis of India's senior living market, the market is currently valued at $10.15 billion (€ 9.35 billion) and is anticipated to continue growing.
The market is driven by the aging population, while services provided by the communities for senior citizens are also contributing to sector growth.
"Many senior citizens are living on their own away from their children because they value their own independence. Also, they do not want to burden their children who are pursuing careers in cities and countries away from that of their parents," Rajesh Subramanian, a senior citizen from Bengaluru, told DW.
Retirement homes remain a luxury
"What we are increasingly seeing is more such homes for elderly citizens and this is going to be part of greying India. Those who can afford it are having a great experience in the autumn of their lives," Jaya Balan, president of the Serene Indus Valley owner's welfare association, told DW.
While those who can afford superior accommodation are moving into gated senior homes, a huge swathe of India's aged population is economically dependent or partially dependent on others for livelihood.
A study by the United Nations Population Fund showed that a large number of older people in India continue to work or are forced to work because of economic conditions.
Over 9.3 million individuals aged 61 and older availed work benefits under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme in 2019-20.
In 2021, almost 10% of the total workers in MGNREGA were 61 years or older. The MNREGA is an Indian labor law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the right to work.
Since a majority of the workforce in India is in the informal sector, there remains poor social security for many older people. Lower-income groups end up suffering in old age and have scant social security to fall back on.
In response, the government announced a social security scheme for senior citizens in 2021, which entails setting up homes to improve the quality of life for impoverished senior citizens.