With elderly population increasing, demand for care homes grows in Kerala
High migration rate, increased life expectancy and proliferating micro-family pattern leave many elders high and dry and for many, such homes are turning a boon -- those who can afford can live gracefully till the last
More and more people are inching towards the senior citizen bracket in Kerala compared to the rest of the country, and going by the current demographic transition, the number of senior citizens is expected to see a rise of 23% by 2036, said a study conducted in last April by renowned migration expert S Irudaya Rajan. According to the statistic, every fifth individual is expected to be a senior citizen, 60 years of age and above, by the said year.
To utilise the opportunity in the field, a number of care homes for the aged mushroomed across the state -- paid homes, retirement retreat, assisted homes, convalescent centres, senior living homes and hospice homes have come up.
Some of them even offer star-rated facilities if you are ready to loosen your wallet well. And others offer advance booking facilities, some also give EMI schemes to attract those who are about to enter the elders’ slot, and others provide end of life care package also, including will execution to decent burial or cremation.
People working in the area say there is a slight increase in demand for such homes after the pandemic. They say a sense of insecurity gripped some of them, and many people settled in Delhi and north India came back to their roots slowly. But they admit no serious study has been done on this.
A resident of Vaikkom in Ernakulam lost his wife during the pandemic in Delhi and his three children are settled in various parts of the north India, and last year he selected one of the paid homes in Ernakulam. “Since my children are busy I don’t want to become a burden for them so I enrolled in one of them to spend my rest of life,” said the retired central government employee who did not want to be named. Drawing a pension of ₹60,000 a month he spends half of it towards payment to the facility and has advised his children to visit him occasionally.
True, with elders’ number swelling, call for protecting and promoting their rights is louder now. High migration rate, increased life expectancy and proliferating micro-family pattern leave many elders high and dry and for many, such homes are turning a boon -- those who can afford can live gracefully till the last. In 2016 in central Kerala and Kochi, the number of such paid modern homes was less than 30, but their numbers have gone up to 65 and many such facilities are in the pipeline, statistics with the state social welfare board show.
An England-returned doctor T N Panikkar (65) was staying alone in his three-storied house on the outskirts of Kottayam in last five years. His wife died last year and his two children are settled abroad. Though his relatives are around, loneliness troubled him much and two months back he joined an elders’ retreat home in the city after paying ₹20 lakh advance and monthly rent of ₹25,000 for a two-room house. He has rented out his bungalow and a major portion of the rent goes to his new dwelling. He also occasionally consults the needy in his new home to beat his boredom.
“I was planning to go back to England where I worked more than 25 years as a medical professional. But the new abode forced me to reconsider my decision,” he said, adding though facilities are not world-class standard, the situation improved a lot. There are many schemes and plans to suit one’s pockets.
Kochi-based Signature Aged Care, a hospice centre, has recently started a unique end of life care project called “Vayogen.” With one-time payment of ₹5 lakh, one can ensure life care in the event of terminal illness or peaceful last lap. Besides free hospice care, it helps in will execution, property and funeral management of the member, said Joseph Alex, managing trustee of Signature Foundation.
“Started in 2015 in a small way, we have more than 150 inmates and 90 staff now. It is true medical advancement prolongs life but we cannot ensure quality life. When you reach last stage, there will be a vacuum and we step in there. In eight years 300 deaths also took place in our home. Die with dignity and care is our motto,” said Joseph Alex. He has two units in the port city.
Travancore Foundation in Kottayam is another such centre that offers diverse range of senior care services. “We have started in 2009 and now we have three centres in Kottayam and Ernakulam districts. We provide dignified, secure and peaceful lives to our seniors through person-centred quality care enriching their lives by nurturing spiritual and human values,” said its marketing manager Jethin Shaji. The foundation provides partly owning, lease and rent facilities in their villas and homes to inmates.
But experts like Dr M Ayyappan, former chairman of condom giant HLL Lifecare and chairman of Sagenome Private Limited, who has done extensive study on geriatric care ,said what elders need most is community living with meaningful engagement.
“We can classify elderly population in four categories --active, assisted, nursing and palliative. True there are many posh homes. But we have to concentrate more on middle and lower income groups who suffer badly in their autumn. We have to improve our social security system. Going by Kerala’s unique demographic transition, we need good care centres in every district and the government needs to monitor them properly,” he said adding loneliness, isolation and lack of proper engagement are three major problems hounding elders.
According to a government report on technical group on population projections for India, in 2021 Kerala has a maximum share of elderly population (16.5 %), followed by Tamil Nadu (13.6%) and Himachal Pradesh (13.1%). Least three states are Bihar (7.7%), Uttar Pradesh (8.1%) followed by Assam (8.2%).
There are many government-run “Pakal veedu” (daytime houses) for elderly in the state and in the last budget fiancé minister K N Balagopal had allocated ₹10 crore to make some these homes resource centres to utilise talents of those lodged there like retired teachers, doctors, scientists and other professionals.
“Elders deserve more. We need a proper care giving service. We need more senior living centres with well-trained staff. They deserve more care and space and it is our duty to retain the goodness of the old,” said Ayyappan, adding those who respect and care elderly pave their own road towards success.