It’s never 2 late

Author: admin

International columnist Jack York on Nishad Lakhani’s unique senior living model of converting family homes into communal settings

Doing my work for It’s Never 2 Late in the US, I’m on the road virtually every week, talking, presenting and meeting individuals tied to senior living and ageing. I’ve been doing that for almost 20 years now. But my relationship with Harmony-Celebrate Age has added a new twist. When I’m talking to random strangers, if I get a whiff that they may be from India, all of a sudden the conversations turn to my columns, my visit to Hyderabad, and an introduction to Harmony. The first reactions of ‘who is this guy’ usually turn into fascinating conversations transcending geography and cultures. That’s the case once again this month—I am delighted to introduce you to Nishad Lakhani.

I met Nishad in Arizona a few weeks ago. I was at a unique senior living conference that was highlighting a growing ageing model in the US: converting family homes into places elders can live in a small, communal setting. I learned about the work she is doing along these lines in Florida. Nishad was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and got her first taste of real estate at a very young age. Working with her father, she gained knowledge in construction, learned all the different trades, and continued working on and off as a labourer in the construction industry. She bought her first piece of real estate in 2008—and hasn’t stopped since. She now invests in both residential and commercial real estate. Part of her success has come in investing in real estate designed specifically for seniors, a desire she feels was fuelled by her parents. “Coming from an Indian-African background, my parents have always taught us to respect and take care of our elders, give them love, care, compassion and support, as they do for us,” she explains.

The details of her life and her journey are fascinating. She was born and raised in Canada; her husband is from Mumbai. Her family is from a small town just outside Porbandar in Gujarat and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; she was raised with Indian traditions and values. Her parents brought those values to Canada and raised her sisters and her with the philosophy that everyone should be given quality of life with respect, dignity, love and the best level of care. Also, being from the Ismaili community, she has always been guided by her spiritual leader: to get a good education, gain the knowledge to be the best at what she wants to do; and be ready to use that knowledge and education to help those in need. That spirit of giving has framed her work to this day.

In 2015, Nishad and her husband decided they would start helping children in India—he had always wanted to open an orphanage and care for the kids that were less fortunate. “To open an orphanage, we needed to come up with a monthly cash flow, so we decided to invest in commercial real estate in the US and use the monthly profits for a good cause,” she explains. “We adopted a group of children who were orphaned or from the streets in India.”

Surprisingly, this experience had a correlation with senior living in the US. They travelled to a property in Tennessee that turned out to be unlicensed and were shocked to see the conditions the seniors were living in. They realised—just like with the orphans in India—that there was a serious need to help seniors. As they delved further into the issue, they realised this was a serious problem and an opportunity: seniors, especially those living with memory loss, needed a new model.

As is the case with many other visionaries in this space, Nishad does not have any formal education in ageing, rather she has learned through personal experience. Her grandmother, father and father-in-law have all been through or are going through health issues, particularly dementia and Alzheimer’s. She has personally seen and dealt with this terrible disease and seen its effects on her loved ones. Her husband Shams has over 20 years of extensive experience in the health industry in three different countries and holds two master’s degrees, in public health and health administration. They combined their expertise and started the path of a new housing model.

Nishad’s Indian culture, drawn from her parents and husband, influences her work and passion. It’s very simple to her, the concept that if you do good to others, good will come to you. She loves so much about India: the history, the food, the culture and, of course, shopping! She loves her life in Canada now and sees many similarities—good and bad—between the US and Canada. There is beauty in the nature and the culture of both countries, according to her, but it’s hard for her in either country to see some people treat others disrespectfully. “We all have a heart and blood running through our veins,” she says. “If someone is in trouble, help them as best as you can, whether it is with assistance, support or just giving them a smile.” Nishad misses the richness of Indian culture but would like to see more consistent education in the country, believing that would lead to higher standards of living, particularly when it comes to women, the elderly and the disadvantaged. She is optimistic, though, that that day is coming.

I see hundreds of communities a year in my travels for iN2L, and I feel the model Nishad and her husband are putting together truly represents the future. Rather than large institutional buildings, her communities are true homes with a small number of residents and an easier-to-manage smaller staff than is found in traditional senior living models. It will be exciting to see her real-estate business prosper. But her magic, from my perspective, is not in the business dealings of her communities; it’s the orphans! They now have a group of about 100 kids in India that they care for with the proceeds of their senior living communities and commercial properties. They have been able to give these children the love, care, education and health they deserve. Her goal is to give them the opportunity to be and do anything they wish to. Their model is to help more seniors in the US and Canada through their real estate and continue to channel that success to help more children in different parts of the world.

A remarkable woman, a remarkable story. Nishad and her husband have built a housing model that allows elders in Canada and the US to live in a dignified, respectful manner—and that success allows children in India to have hope. It’s a beautiful thing; thanks, Nishad, for the inspiration you provide.

York is co-founder of It’s Never 2 Late ® (iN2L), an American company dedicated to helping older adults realise the full benefits of today’s technology

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
November 2018