Senior Centers – A home away from home?

Update: This post was originally published on September 2010. There’s been a lively interest in the comments all these years so I have reposted to the front page to keep it current.
By Geeta Padmanabhan
In a society where one of the first lessons a youngster learns is to respect and obey the elderly in the family, touch their feet as often as possible or at least when he/she takes leave and returns from a trip, where every young girl moving to her husband’s home is told to take care of the in-laws and treat her husband’s family as her own, the growing phenomenon of retirement centres must come as a bit of a surprise.

A lot has happened in the past few decades to make this necessary. Changing cultural perceptions, starting with the increasing assertiveness of the younger couple in how they bring up the kids, to eating out, to managing finances, all contribute to family clashes. The elders no longer set the rules – they are asked to follow those set by the younger generation.The elders’ inability to play a sub-ordinate but visibly useful role in running the family adds to the friction. Significantly, the happiest elderly are those who still own homes, have a regular income and travel at will, those who wisely put money away for old age rather than pin their faith on their kids.

Twenty years ago, when elders began to feel abandoned and helpless, they went to old age homes out of despair. In the face of poverty and cruelty, the twin attacks that often brought on depression, they felt forced to leave their son’s/daughter’s home and seek shelter elsewhere. In every interview residents of free old-age homes narrate similar stories: “I spent all my money on the kids’ education/marriage/business. On my son’s advice, I sold the house and moved in with him. I wrote my will bequeathing my property to my son. My daughter-in-law has no time for me. I’m just a servant in the house.” They left because they had no option. The senior centers then were often low cost, subsidized and poorly managed. Moving to these dreary dumps of discarded parents was a last resort, an act of desperation.

Today, there is a new breed of retirement homes. Financially successful NRI’s have the means to make their parents comfortable, and the need to assuage the guilt in not being there with them. And while the aging parent would like nothing better than living in a joint family, surrounded by children and grandchildren, there is also the realization that living in India, among familiar surroundings and friends may actually be preferable to leading a lonely existence in freezing climates where everyone in the house is busy with their own lives.

Affluent Indians now seek the independence and the responsibility-free comforts of living in post-retirement homes that are specially created to suit their needs. And they seem to like what they get and who they enjoy it with. There are landscaped gardens to stroll in, temples, well stockedgate libraries, hygienic kitchens and the company of people of their age who share a common culture and similar tastes. The added attraction is the fact that many of these centers are not too far away from major cities, where the residents have had active work lives.

My mother moved into a retirement home last September. She had been scouting around for one, having decided that her 4 children’s homes in three Indian cities were too restrictive to her taste. We suspect it is because mom is a sprightly 83, having lost none of her abundant zest for life.

Mom discovered Srimathi Sundaravalli Memorial (SSM) Trust Residency during a conversation with Mrs. Jaya Seshan, wife of the former Chief Election Commissioner of India. When she said she and her husband were planning to move into this place, mom was convinced. SSM Residency would meet her exacting standards in food, accommodation and company. She decided to do a recce before casting the final vote.

On her visit, mom grilled owner Mr. Santhanam, manager Mr. Raghavan, the all those in charge of the various facilities. She checked out the main office, the distance one had to cover to reach it and the entertainment center. She even spoke to the gardener. She liked their (practised?) answers. She inspected the cooking area and approved of the modern methods and the gleaming stainless steel equipment. The cook seemed efficient. Mom then had a meal. She liked both the food and the service and decided to give the place a try. A centre that served excellent meals couldn’t be too bad.

The finance works this way: You pay a refundable deposit of a few lakhs and there is a reasonable monthly amount that you pay for food and rent. Anything beyond is extra. Mom chalks up a hefty telephone bill, giving us – and scores of her city friends – her weekly campus news. And remember, she signs up invoices at the Angadi. But her electricity bills and TV cable charges are pretty low. She comes to the city for her bi-monthly medical check-up. What she has now is an AC-ed suite, TV, personal telephones, food that she is used to. Large areas for walks, entertainment minus the hassle of running the apartment/house.

After nearly six months, mom looks good. She has put on weight. In India, this is a sure sign of happiness, if not well-being. She comes to visit occasionally but has become so comfortable with her new home that she returns quickly.

According to HelpAge India, 70 million Indians now fall in the senior citizen category. The number is likely to touch 117 million by 2025. Senior centers run on business lines are booming. Here are some examples.

[1] Ashiana Housing on the Delhi-Gurgaon Road. One/two/three bedroom apartments are  priced between Rs 9 and Rs 20 lakh . There are 640 units. The complex offers a 4.5 acre park, a dhaba, a convenient shopping area, doctors on call, maid and driver on demand and bathrooms with grab rails.

2] At Classic Kudumbam, with a built-up area of 50,000 sq ft near Sholinganallur (near Chennai), you make an initial deposit of Rs 10 lakh (this after being screened through a painstaking process), of which Rs 2 lakh is non-refundable. It entitles you to membership in the club with a swimming pool, massage parlour, physiotherapy an hour of internet weekly. Rooms are available on a twin-sharing basis; they are air-conditioned and have a TV set, fridge and a telephone.
An open-air theatre screens films on weekends; the nearest hospital and medical services are 2 km away. Interaction with residents includes moonlit dinners and bhajan sessions. Plans are afoot for dependent living units (where you can live with a dependent), and assistant living units (for the physically infirm).

[3] At Wellness Communes near Chennai single bedroom homes cost Rs 6.75 lakh, double bedroom homes are for Rs 8.75 lakh. There is an additional charge of Rs 1,100 for maintenance and security.

[4] SCR has a cluster of cottages along East Coast Road Chennai. A 200 sq ft unit could cost around Rs 1 lakh.

[5] The Naya Jyoti in Chennai is a 42 unit outfit with an independent kitchen, a community hall and a library. Naya Jyoti’s Noida (near Delhi) Centre offers  24-hour medical help, a bookshop, a bank and a post office among its facilities. Apartments cost between Rs 6.5 and Rs 10 lakh and there is a security and maintenance fee of Rs 3,100.

[6] Amar Nensey’s Bhairavi, built around the Eagleton Golf Course, Bangalore, has a mini recreation club, a hospital and access to the 18-hole Eagleton Golf Course. Apartments cost Rs 12 lakh onwards.

[7] Housed in Basavangudi near Bangalore is a retirement complex owned by H N Reddy, a former member of Bangalore Development Authority. You pay a deposit of  Rs 1 lakh, and a Rs 7,000 monthly charge. You can hire a full-time cook, vegetarian meals, and have a doctor on call for your four-bedroom apartment which houses a TV and a PC.

[8] Sharan in Navi Mumbai has an interest-free deposit scheme, most modern amenities from independent living quarters, doctors on call and has a monthly charge of Rs 6,000-10,000.

210 thoughts on “Senior Centers – A home away from home?

  1. Geeta Padmanabhan

    Hi,
    My mom who is very particular about food has not complained about the quality so far. Nor has she said anything about pilferage.
    I’ll ask her about these issues anyway.

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  2. Venkata

    That is really nice to know. Clearly this is a subjective topic, but what I gathered goes beyond subjectivity to basic quality and proper cooking.
    The biggest problem here is that they may choose not to divulge such issues in the hope of not bothering their children and for fear of antagonizing staff, especially if there are no other good alternative solution. 

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  3. Nithya

    My uncle and aunt left SSM several months ago. Apparently, food was the main issue. I need to worry about my own parents at some point. If anybody has any insights on hiring live-in persons for long-term care — including housekeeping, cooking, handling medical emergencies, etc., please share. Have any of you used http://www.yourmaninindia.com or  www.indiahomehealthcare.com? The former claims to use the latter.
    I think all of us NRIs should team up to start a non-profit well-managed center that has an unwavering focus on the quality and welfare of its service!

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  4. Sablokh

    Heard that large investments taken from gullible seniors jumping at high rates but interest not paid promptly and no answers given,major housing project underway offering “double your money” in 2 years bait, how is it possible ?

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  5. vijikrish

    I hear from my mom it is still going good, very well care taken, open meeting was conducted last week and discussion was made openly on various matters that inmates had questions. My understanding is PremKumar is back to take care quality and not completely submerged in other projects. My mom mentioned to me about couple of rude employees in dinning, I requsted her to write a note about that to Management and hoping that will be taken care quickly. I plan to follow up, if not I would not hesitate to make trip to India, after all my mom’s peace is very important no matter the issue is very minor.
    My mom is enjoying new unjal installed outside and very happy about socializing & finding new friends.

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  6. Sablokh

    “Unjals” do not count for much, if food quality is down and there is lack of transparency in payment of interest on deposits placed with the Trust by the senior citizens. I am aware that several seniors are very surprised that detailed information re interest rates, tax deducted at source and periodicity of interest is not provided automatically, and requests for same are ignored.

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  7. vijikrish

    Dear Mr.Sablok, “Unjals” does not count much for you, it does mean a lot for my mom. At this age, instead being at room, socializing is very important…as it relieves stress from their aged heart of missing dear kids & grand children.  Iam not surprised coz every detail has been provided as of now. I talked today to my mom, she is as usual same & happy. HTH’s.

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  8. Sablok

    Dear Ms VijiKrish,

    Of-coures, unjals and socializing are very important, and people at SSM are very kind and patient, no denying that, but finances must be transparent and unquestionable, after all when hard-earned money is invested, there must be a prompt and clear rendering of accounts. After all, when you depsoit money in a bank do you not get a monthly statement showing rate of interest, period applicable, amount of interest earned, tax deducted at source etc. Perhaps you are among the fortunate few who are so well off that these details are of no concern to you.

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  9. Geetha Natarajan

    For some reason none of my comments seem to get published. I never write anything bad. Perhaps NRI from Australia is not counted as valuable contributor may be. Overall my mother has been there for close to 5 years and no complains she is happy and doing well. The food they give her is the right one for her health condition.

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  10. Shrikant Trivedi

    Hello All:
    This is surely an awesome blog. Lots of pertinent info and opinions. Does any one here know of or can point me to similar “excellent” facilities for assisted senior living in Gujarat &/or in Delhi NCR ? Thanks much in advance.

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  11. vijikrish

    Dear Mr.Sablok, SSM residency is senior living and we use that place for my mom’s safe retired living. I do not use residency as financial institution and hence no deposits or any expectactions for interest or transperency related to financial stuff. Iam surprised, even to open savings account in bank, we clearly lay our expectations and you have not done your ground work . Iam not sure what you missed, def. SSM is NO FINANCIAL institution for me. I use reputed banks, LIC or government agency or real estate for my investment. Thanks – Viji

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  12. Geetha Natarajan

    I agree with you Ms Viji Krish i am like you as well. My main aim and concern is the happiness and welfare of my mother and definetly not the finance side of things. That is the least of my worry and there are million options in the world for investments and only limited for caring the loved ones and the elders. I certainly have no regret on any of that. My mum is very happy and thats all it matters for me.

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  13. Pushpa

    Hello,
    I came to this great website by chance while googling on SSM home for senior citizens in Chennai. I am currently in the information gathering phase for my mother who lives in Chennai and is inclined to move into a good home.
    I live in the USA and I would love to communicate with anyone whose parents ( or either of them) have recently moved into SSM and their experiences. You know how it is… when you are making that important decision and dont know if it right or wrong. I will go through the SSM website but would love to hear back from others who have recent experiences.
    Thanks.

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  14. Sablok

    Vijikrish and geetha, please do not take an ostrich-like attitude, perhaps you both are supporting your parents in SSM , well and good, but there are many seniors living in SSM who are self-supporting and have placed part of their life-savings with SSM so please don’t dismiss these things out of hand, the financial problem can affect the working of SSM, basic economics, Madams.

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  15. Geetha Natarajan

    Hi Mr Sablok my mother is also a self funded retiree but i do give her a hand and she her self has even admitted that it is the least of her worries as well. We have bigger things to focus take care.

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  16. Ramki

    If what Sablok says is true, it appears to be an important point to take note. If a trusted organisation has taken money from the elderly, the trust should not be squandered away, howsoever small the investment may be. Non-investors should take note as well since this speaks to the basic financial management skills at the least (without worrying about intent, etc.) 

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  17. Parameswaran

    My parents have been living at SSM since 2009, I came across this site during a period of more-than usual worrying about them. My situation is similar to what many others describe here. Settled abroad, with little chance of professional relocation to India. My parents have visited me and were quite bothered by the social isolation and their inability to go out independently. We made the best of a bad situation and they moved into SSM.
    They do have the occasional grumbling about the weather, their health, and not being able to see their granddaughter, but I have not heard any consistent complaining about SSM. I have visited and stayed with them. The facilities are acceptable, what really sets it apart is the camaraderie and interaction between the Residents. The food was good, the grounds well maintained, the staff respectful.
    While I was there, I did see the offers for “doubling your money” with investments in a new development, and wondered about the truthfulness of this. My parents were even more skeptical than me.
    All in all, not ideal (I wish I was older so I could retire and go back to live with them!), but much better them them living by themselves. They tried that for a while, that was scary.

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  18. vijikrish

    Dear Mr.Sablok, Now you have given ostrich-like attitude how I support my mom, she is self-funded retiree (pensioner I should say) staying in SSM, very less monitory support from me…she expects my presence more than my $$$. She has invested her hard earned income/retirment funds in LIC/Postal and Govt bonds. She does her own Math and never fell into cracks for doubling promises. Sorry to hear your pathetic situation. I did note your situation and will do my best analysis if I plan to invest on any of these doubling promises. Best.

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  19. Nithya

    Hi,

    My father passed away recently. What things does my mother and me need to take care of? We were told to get death certificate (with 10 copies), heir certificate (to prove that my mother and me are the sole heirs of my father), get my mother to write a will, consolidate accounts into a few that can be managed easily, and convert all accounts to have my mother and me as an either-or-survivor title or if that is not possible to put me as a nominee.  

    Can others who had faced this unfortunate situation outline the steps they had to take — financially and otherwise? 

    Did any of you have to execute any (durable) power of attorneys, health care related directives (if at all such things exist), etc.?

     Thank you very much for any information you are able to share.

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  20. Parameswaran

    Hi Nithya
    I do not have any constructive suggestions, have recently been pondering the questions you raise.
    Just want to offer my sympathies and condolences on your loss. 
    However well prepared we think we are for these events, it is not enough.

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  21. sablok

    @Vijikrish, please mind your words, this is a decent blog, and I am not in a “pathetic situation” only pointing out pitfalls.

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  22. BhavathariniRajesh

    Hello … 
    Looking for a very well established good retirement home for my grandfather. I see that many are happy with SSM services. This apart are there any other retirement homes in chennai that would offer similar services as that of SSM. Thanks in advance. 

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  23. Raman

    @BhavathariniRajesh, Clasic Kudumbam is good as long as the person is in reasonably good health, once he/she is incapacitated in any way facilities at Clasic are inadequate compared to SSM.

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  24. BhavathariniRajesh

    @Raman… Thanks a lot for Ur response… Just another query..apart from these two are there any other places that would match with these two in terms of facility nd services… Will call SSM nd CK and enq….. Once again thanks a ton… 

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  25. vijikrish

    @BhavathariniRajesh – compared to SSM, only facility I found is Classic Kudumbam… I found CK is little pricey and far away from airport. SSM has danvantri block for sick people. I also did other research, found Lions club senior home near kalpakkam…reasonably priced, but facility is not compared to SSM, if you are fairly health and no/very less requirement for doctor office and survive without A/C…lions club senior home is good option. I liked their location, it is facing ocean (near kalpakkam). Hope this helps.

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  26. Raman

    @BhavathariniRajesh, there are quite a few homes but none to match SSM or CK, CK is in fact closer to the city only 25-30 min from Adyar, more exclusive and thus expensive

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  27. Varun

    There are apparently good retirement homes in Coimbatore. One that was mentioned by a friend is Brindavan. Sorry, don’t have any further details here. If anybody knows, please post.

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  28. Geeta P

    OMG, this column hs sustained its popularity and relevance over the years. This is a clear indication of the significant changes in the society and parent-child relationships!

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  29. Karpagam

    The societal change is not necessarily for the good. There is no substitute for family being together or at least close in touch, across generations.  PLACES LIKE SSM, cLASIC KuDUMBAM,  ETC. CANNOT COME ANYWHERE CLOSE TO THIS. Hopefully, the management that runs these places have appropriate elderly representatives and advisers with commensurate situational experience and sympathy on board to guide them in running these places well in the long run. 

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  30. Parameswaran

    Partha
    Are you trying to have your mother admitted as a new Resident straight to the medical wing at SSM, or is she already a Resident at SSM and needs more medical care?

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  31. Parameswaran

    Partha
    Have you contacted the administration office at SSM directly? From what I gathered some years ago, SSM and other residency homes expect that those admitted are in generally stable health, and mostly independent in their daily essential activities, at the time of initial admission. Illness necessitating transfer to the medical wing later is then accepted.
    I am not sure that what I said above is correct, others in this more forum who are better informed please help.
    In any case, if you have not already done so, call or visit the administration office at SSM and check for yourself. Good luck and best wishes
    Parameswaran

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  32. Raghu

    Karpagam, what is the point of making such statements, we all know there is no substitute for family care but circumstances force us to put our parents in the care of institutions like SSM

    <>

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  33. reshmi

    Hi Geeta,

    Nice to read this article. I’m a Bangalore based journalist working on a feature on retirement homes for Silvertalkies.com, it’s an online magazine for seniors. Would be interested in speaking to you regarding your mother’s stay in a retirement community. Does she still live there? Do let me know. My email is reshmi@gmail.com

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  34. Rekha

    Hello everyone, I have been looking into SSM residency for my elderly aunt and uncle in Chennai. They are 75 and 80 years old and in reasonably good health. I am settled in the US and it is very hard to make inquiries into a suitable haven for them in India. Thank you everybody for their constructive contributions especially the ones that have parents living there currently. We would like to visit in Feb and meet up with some of the residents if at all possible. Any contact information for parents that are in residence will be much appreciated. Please email me at rekha04@hotmail.com. Thanks again !

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  35. Ram

    Heard of ill-treatment (beatings) in the elderly care wing with nurses.  It appears periodic training and routine monitoring are badly needed. Hope the management, caregivers and residents will step-up to formulate and implement good processes here.  Needless to say, this is also necessary for good upkeep of the apartments, the kitchens and the food menu, the dining areas, the common areas, etc!

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  36. Raghu

    @Ram, my mother lives in the medical wing and is as happy as one can be given physical limitations of the aged. On my last visit there, a month ago, I found patients and staff interacting very well. So, stop spreading unsubstantiated rumours of ill-treatment, it is just not fair to the dedicated staff when people like you start throwing stones. Shame on you.

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  37. Parameswaran

    Let us give Mr Ram a chance to explain and substantiate his comments. If true, these comments point to serious issues; if not true, it is just a disgraceful attempt to stir up trouble.

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  38. Raman

    What has happened to this blog, no comments from anybody, is that bad or good ? Hope posts are not being censored for whatever reasons.

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