Framing appropriate regulation is essential to protect senior citizens
The need to anticipate and frame appropriate regulation in an area that concerns senior citizens is urgent—the nascent boom in retirement homes for senior citizens. These are meant for affluent seniors who have the means to opt for a lifestyle that allows them freedom from daily chores and helps them lead a comfortable life. Since retirement homes are a relatively new concept in India, many of them boast picturesque locations, extremely modern facilities and a bunch of amenities and services including cafeterias, auditoriums, libraries as well as infrastructure for medical emergencies.
But what happens if a senior citizen invests his savings in a retirement home, hoping to spend the rest of his life there, but things go horribly wrong? There is no statute or regulation to ensure that the developers of such townships provide and maintain the promised standards of utilities and service. A good example of how things could go wrong is available in the extremely candid minutes of a residents’ meeting of a south India-based retirement township. While the retirement home already has some occupants, the promised amenities (such as a generator, a mini-shuttle bus, an Ayurvedic centre and a park) were either not ready or unviable at the low occupancy level prevailing then.
Similarly, residents had to cope with a labour shortage because of high attrition of support staff like cooks and helpers. The management candidly tells residents, “A time may come when we will not find cooks and maids.”
What happens when services worsen? Or when a senior citizen wants to sell out because of cultural or compatibility issues, or simply to be closer to her family? Since these facilities are restricted to seniors, the marketability of such properties is low. None of these issues has blown into a ‘class–action’ problem as yet; but the time to frame regulation for retirement homes is now. Unfortunately, when the ministry of social justice and empowerment hasn’t even implemented the National Policy for Older Persons (NPOP) framed in 1999, where is the question of framing rules for developments that are less than a decade old?
(This report was first published in Moneylife magazine, in the edition dated 24 March 2011, that was available on the newsstands on 10 March 2011)