Season Two

Senior living in today’s society: its importance and challenges

Thejas Pillai explores the significance and difficulties of establishing a senior living community

The concept of senior living is emerging in India in a big way. Based on census data from 2011, it was estimated that 15 million senior citizens were living on their own with almost 75% being women. Within 30 years, India’s senior population is supposed to triple to 300 million, which would make up 18% of its total population in 2050. The traditional model for senior care involved joint care among family members that would support the elders of the family. However, due to the progressive breakdown of joint family household and corporate jobs that split up couples from their families, the need for assistance from outside helpers and medically trained staff has increased. Especially due to families moving to other foreign countries in search of better financial opportunities, elderly parents are left back home in India, where they tend to live in gated communities, with low social interaction and perhaps limited medical assistance from outside helpers. To address this issue, senior living communities are sprouting up in India. These communities provide housing in which senior citizens can live an independent life whilst having access to various convenient resources, including medical and holistic care, as well as social activities for further engagement. While many retirement homes across India are not providing the best medical services available, over 73% of seniors said they would recommend living in senior homes because these problems could be fixed by implementing better regulations.

For seniors who would like to remain independent, alternatives such as senior housing and independent living are available. Seniors who do not require additional medical services can still take advantage of living in a community designed for them by selling their homes and not having to take care of a home on their own. Senior living is trending away from clinical buildings with shared rooms to more home-like environments that could look very much like apartment complexes, and in some instances, luxury apartments. Amenities such as swimming pools, pool tables, bars, restaurants, and movie theatres are available in some senior living communities which allow seniors to partake in recreational activities. Outdoor amenities such as patios, dining areas, and walking trails are also an added advantage. Hybrid homes are again an emerging design in which seniors can avoid large population densities of typical apartment complexes. The hybrid home contains corner units in which there is a common area in the center. These allow for more light, better views, and larger square footage, with more area for socialisation. Electronic amenities such as strong Wi-Fi connectivity and electronic equipment provide an avenue for residents to utilise telehealth consultations and visits. Smart Ageing and Voice Technology will give senior citizens more independence by allowing seniors to connect to loved ones or medical professionals without having to touch a button. It also allows for capabilities such as fall detection, remote assistance, and urgent response.

Several new design trends are emerging in senior livings which will help to increase the mood and well-being of senior residents. Biophilic designs seek to connect residents to the natural environment, which can provide deep, psychological benefits. This can be achieved with the use of outdoor spaces, as well as ample natural light and integrating organic design elements, such as natural indoor fixtures and nature inspired art. Cleanability is another trend that is coming to the forefront due to the pandemic. For surfaces that residents need to interact with, materials with enhanced cleanability features, such as antimicrobial fabrics and solid, nonporous surfaces can help to keep the residences clean. The use of more durable fabrics and furniture is in demand, which can stand up to daily wear and tear, as well as extensive cleaning. Design features such as natural colours (blues, greens, browns, and golds) and playful textures (denim, linen, and leather) can help to increase well-being in the home by increasing energy and joy within the space. In addition, playful accents, such as wallcovering or draperies can create an exciting, fun-filled environment. Senior livings in India that are looking to create a clean, yet bright and inspiring environment for their residents can implement these types of design  changes.

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