Gravitating towards Intergenerational Living (by Colonel Achal Sridharan, VSM Founder & MD CovaiCare )

Realty & Reality:

We need Roti, Kapada and Makan. But along with real estate (realty) or Makan, we also need services that we look forward to. Real Estate projects be it independent houses, apartments, villaments or combination of all and termed as “Gated Community,” with swanky club houses, swimming pools, gymnasiums, walkways, children’s park, elders’ corner, green areas or lung-spaces, amazing architecture, specifications par excellence etc., are known as “normal” real estate.  But normal real estate does not give basic services that families need. Normal real estate projects leave the management of the gated community, apartment complexes to the Resident Welfare Associations. In the case of larger complexes, the management of utilities may be undertaken by the developer.

Common Areas and Common Amenities:

There is a difference between common areas and common amenities. Common amenities need not be part of common areas. There are different models of maintenance of common areas and common amenities. RWAs may take care of the common areas and common amenities. The developer may take care of common areas including security and utilities in larger realty projects and charge for the same. There may be multiple RWAs in larger projects with an Apex Welfare Association, with due representation from each of the projects in the community.

Are only common amenities and common areas enough?

I ask this question in the context of:

  1. Changing times that we live and the fact that change is the only constant factor in life
  2. Longevity meaning the increased life expectancy thanks to better health care and being conscious of wellness
  3. Nuclear families and the problems thereof
  4. Necessity of husband and wife to be wage earners to realise their dreams, including owning their home and give the best to their child(ren)
  5. Reduced TFR (Total Fertility Rate) leading to lesser number of children. In the affordable class, the couple has one or no child
  6. Need for basic services like good 24X7 security, housekeeping services, which would make life more meaningful and enjoyable
  7. Lesser tension to care for the child when he or she returns from school, until the parents return
  8. In competitive India, need for extra attention to children’s education, be it completion of homework assignments or tuition teachers
  9. Basic medical facilities
  10. Packed food (dabba) for working couples or tiffin/snacks for children returning home from school.
  11. Organised games and sports for children to reduce obesity caused by mobile games.
  12. Arrangement for emergency medical service and caregivers to those who may require including management of caregivers
  13. Concierge services

The answer is “yes, we need services as well as basic care. Age is not the criteria for services. Quantum of care required may vary with advancing age. Then why we are struggling to get these services?  As the years go by, we may not have the luxury of getting some of the above services. What we get today does not meet our expectations and even if one is willing to pay, reliable services are difficult to get. This leads to avoidable stress.

Do you need to shift into a senior living community?

As you age, you may be forced to shift into a senior living or retirement communities. Such options are necessitated by health issues among the spouses and not getting the necessary help. While the age for opting for senior living is steadily increasing, the age of retirement is decreasing. Retirement is voluntary. Moving into a retirement community may become a necessity since the services and care thar you expect may not be available in the normal real estate community that you live, especially if one encounters serious health issues or getting basic services become a burden. Shifting into a senior living community is expensive as you may have to invest in a dwelling. The senior living models in India are not on rent or lease but ownership.

A Possible Scene in a Home at 6 PM:

Ram (45) and Lakshmi (42) are a working couple who live in a two bedroom plus study apartment, which is part of a township. Both are aspirational and want to lead a good life with their son Bunty (12 years) studying in class 7 in a good school. Ram and Lakshmi work for corporates as they are well educated and qualified.

5:45 PM: Ram returns from work – one of the early evenings! Bunty receives him and after usual exchanges called “conversation between a son and his father,” Ram removes his shoes, has a wash, and picks up the newspaper to read. Bunty asks Ram for his mobile phone which Ram gladly gives. Bunty gets immersed in one of the favourite mobile games, which needs faster fingers than brain to play! 

6:30 PM: Lakshmi returns from work and is greeted by Ram and a smile from Bunty. Both go back to what interested them. Lakshmi freshens herself and asks Bunty, “Any Homework?” Bunty just shrugs his shoulders. Lakshmi takes Bunty’s school diary and sees that he has at least one hour of homework to do. She asks Bunty to stop playing with the mobile phone and get back to the study table and finish the homework. This results into an argument between the mother and the son and Ram wanting to remain neutral, goes to the bedroom and switches on the TV to see some news channel (what else?) This infuriates Lakshmi, who ensures that Bunty goes to the study table and throws the mobile phone to Ram to catch!

Lakshmi enters the kitchen to get dinner, next day’s tiffin, and lunch ready. He family then has dinner and by the time Lakshmi is ready to get into bed, she has no energy left and goes to sleep. Next day, it is a mad rush for all three of them. Rani, the housekeeping staff is supposed to come by 7 AM so that and by the time Ram and Lakshmi leave for work, the house is cleaned, and the dirty dishes are washed. 

7:00 AM (Next Day) Tension is palpable. Rani has not shown up. Even Tabby the dog, has stopped wagging the tail. Lakshmi rings up the neighbour, where Rani works and, wants to know if Rani had informed her about her not coming to work. Answer is negative and the neighbour also gets into stress! Ram realises that he needs to help Lakshmi since her anger can be felt by all, including poor Tabby. To cool the situation, Ram who was awarded the “Best dishwasher” award during the pandemic, starts cleaning the utensils in the sink! Hare Krishna! “Why not invest in a Dishwasher,” is the thought which occurs to Ram but when Rani turns up next day, the thought is put on a backburner!

3:30 PM: Buntyreturns from school. Lakshmi calls bunty. Bunty’s phone is engaged. Lakshmi is worried. Lakshmi calls Ram. Ram’s phone is out of reach. More tension for Lakshmi. Bunty enters home and takes some sandwiches from the fridge, heats it up in the micro-oven, while continuing his conversation with his friend. After some time, Lakshmi is able to reach bunty, who tells his mother to relax. Bunty has a wash, changes clothes and switches on the TV. He watches an adult movie from one of the OTTs.

5:45 PM: the story repeats!

That could be many more scenarios which we witness day in and day out. There could be senior citizens living in that apartment. If he has an emergency or falls, there is no way help can come to him, until someone realises that something is amiss in that apartment. Your child, while playing can fall and, get hurt. You have no emergency medical aid in that complex. If the parents are also working couple, the problem gets further magnified. You have no access you get home-cooked food in a dabba, which you can take to your office or have it in your home. Swiggy or Zomato can get you food from restaurants. Most of the food that you get from the restaurants is not healthy and if you have a child, it becomes difficult to depend upon restaurant food. Imagine if home cooked food can be delivered to you at your doorstep from within the same complex?

What is the point of having swanky clubhouse which cannot facilitate your daily requirements? What is the point in having at gym or a swimming pool which is not used? What is the point of being worried all the time from morning until night, whether at home or in your office? What is the point of not having access to medical help? What is the point of living if Rani does not turn up for work? What is the point of worrying all the time?

Our lives have become too mechanical and stressful. India has the world’s second largest number of obese children. Our children do not play outdoor games. Not many children know about playing marbles, tops, kho-kho or pittoo. Our adults get lifetime diseases like hypertension or diabetes at a young age.

Nuclear families face maximum problems with minimum solutions. Is there a reason to live healthier life with less stress and more happiness in the company of each other in the family?

The answer is yes. The solution is from Namma Jini!

Please wait for January 23 for Namma Jini to be born!

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