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At ‘retirement resorts’, senior citizens enjoy independent active lives

A number of senior citizens are moving into retirement communities where they have a fulfilling social life along with security and ready medical assistance

Senior citizens want to lead their post-retirement lives on their own terms. Photo: Pexels
Senior citizens want to lead their post-retirement lives on their own terms. Photo: Pexels

The card-room echoes with laughter, while strains of What Jhumka and giggles filter in from the dance class in the next room. It’s just another day at an active seniors’ society. Comprising nearly 11% of the population, the number of senior citizens is growing steadily in India and is estimated to double by 2050. 

A sizeable number of these elders are facing a curious situation of abrupt superannuation, and having led active and independent lives, the feeling of suddenly being past their shelf life is unsettling. Unlike the generation, who spent these silver years with their children and grandchildren, the current generation are unable or unwilling to do so because their children are abroad or they do not want to change their own lifestyles. As Priyal Rajput, a sales executive at real estate developer Ashiana’s seniors project in Bhiwadi, jokes, “Most people enjoy being with their grandchildren but for limited durations only.” 

For many, retirement is a mixed blessing—on one hand there is the much-awaited relief of finally bidding farewell to daily work stress, but on the other, there is a sense of being cut off from friends, colleagues and office get-togethers. Instead of living in isolation, many are choosing to move into active seniors’ residential complexes.

Situated away from the crowd of the city yet not too far from urban centres, these residential complexes are retirement resorts where residents can meet like-minded people, participate in activities that keep engaged, and have the reassurance of security and ready medical assistance. “I am enjoying myself to the hilt,” says R, a recently retired teacher from Dwarka, Delhi, who stays from time to time at what she calls her “holiday home” in Ashiana Nirmay in Bhiwadi, Rajasthan. “I love singing and dancing, so I have joined both the clubs here,” she says.

Many such residencies by real estate developers like Ashiana, Columbia Pacific Communities and Vedaanta Vaibhava Retirement Communities have come up at multiple locations across India, close to cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, New Delhi, Pune and Jaipur.

S, 70, at Ashiana Shubham in Chennai, has found close friends with whom she hangs out every day. “We have impromptu antakshari sessions in the evenings. We have our lunch together at the excellent society dining-hall,” she says. She adds that she loves the idea of eating simple home food at the dining hall, without having to cook, and that having regular doctor visits and a nursing facility available round the clock is extremely reassuring.

“Many of our members live in such retirement homes” says Nidhi Chawla, the co-founder of Silver Talkies, a platform that connects senior citizens across cities. “Isolation is a real problem,” she says, “People often lose motivation to pursue even much-loved hobbies.” For them having like-minded people and opportunities around is a big motivator.

Ashwini Jaisim, whose parents are residents of Suvidha Retirement Village in Bengaluru, finds it heartening that her parents are enjoying an independent and healthy life. The 30-acre “village” was designed by Ashwini’s father K. Jaisim. Ashwini’s mother Geeta enjoys the long walks around the sylvan place as well as the different activities offered there like music and art and craft. She is very happy to be away from the congestion and pollution of the bustling city. “My husband does miss his work,” she says, “though he keeps busy and enjoys snooker with his friends in the evening.”

 Reena Lamba with her friends at the dining hall in Ashiana Nirmay. Image: courtesy Reena Lamba
Reena Lamba with her friends at the dining hall in Ashiana Nirmay. Image: courtesy Reena Lamba

Shifting to such a place is a big decision, which is why Reena Lamba and her husband, Amarbeer Lamba, from Delhi, both 60, took their time to decide whether they actually wanted to move permanently to Ashiana Nirmay. “We bought the place and visited frequently before taking the plunge,” Reena says. They love the experience and their only daughter in Malaysia finds it reassuring that they “have many new friends, activities and of course, the clinic.”

Rajiv Desai, who runs a diversity and inclusion consultation practice in Berlin, is similarly happy about moving his mother, Chandrika Desai, into Parkside Retirement Homes in Bengaluru. “She has a robust social life,” he says. “Mom fell in love with the place almost immediately.” 

Most of these societies boast of thriving club-houses with multiple options like a music club, reading club, dance club and even a theater for movie weekends. “I never had time for tambola or salsa earlier,” says R, a 65-year-old resident at Nirmay. “Here, I’ve learned both, along with swimming and cycling which I never learnt when I was young.”

Retirement resorts or active senior living communities ensure essential socialisation for emotional and mental well-being. Most also have a “buddy” system where residents volunteer to be with anyone going through tough phases. Reena recounts how a group of such buddies helped a recently widowed woman with her depression. “Here there are people who have time for us and people who we have time for,” she says.

Madhumita Gupta is an independent writer.

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