A welcome initiative

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Last week, Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri released the ‘Model Guidelines for Development and Regulation of Retirement Homes’, prescribing norms for an elder-friendly environment in retirement communities. “The model guideline envisages to promote quality of life for the elderly people of the country and ensures protection of their rights. I am sure implementation of these guidelines by all the stakeholders will address the core issues of the seniormost section of society,” Puri said while releasing the guidelines. A task force for constant dialogue with states and other stakeholders will be constituted by the Ministry to ensure implementation of these guidelines, which were based on a report by MoneyLife Foundation prepared for HDFC.

Experts and stakeholders are happy with this move by the Centre. “This is a big win,” says Sailesh Mishra, founder-president, Silver Innings. “Builders and private players have been taking advantage of the emerging market for retirement homes, especially in South India and Maharashtra. However, there was no mechanism to protect senior citizens who bought homes. Though promised, there was lack of facilities and services with no proper refund policy. In the absence of a grievances cell, the new model guidelines will not only help silvers but regulate retirement homes in the country.”

The guidelines include provision of common basic services like 24×7 water and electricity supply, maintenance of proper hygiene, indoor and outdoor recreation facilities, security and housekeeping, single-window facilities and helpdesk, transportation assistance, yoga and fitness facilities, and caregiving facilities at retirement homes, apart from basic medical, safety and security services like 24×7 on-site ambulance service, mandatory tie-up for emergency facilities with the nearest hospitals and pharmacy, medical emergency room, regular medical check-up of residents, etc.

“We are certainly glad that, at least, this sector is now viewed as important, which was not the case till the last decade, but a bit disappointed that some of the nuances and specific requirements of the industry are not adequately addressed,” says M H Dalal, founder and chairman of Association of Senior Living India (ASLI) and CMD of Oasis Senior Living. “For instance, the reverse model is mentioned as one of the retirement home models, while reverse mortgage is in reality a financial mechanism in an ownership model. Likewise, a mortgage unit under EMI is not a model but a financial mechanism to purchase the unit.”

“Yes, we need rules and regulations and, on this point, we are with the Union Government,” says Colonel (retd) Achal Sridharan, managing director, Covai Care, a pioneer in the concept of retirement communities. “Retirement homes are meant to provide quality services and care to the elders from the time they choose to live in a retirement community until they leave this world.” However, he felt the Union Government should have brought out these guidelines in the public domain after participation from all stakeholders. “In the absence of such participation, most of us feel these guidelines are like real-estate regulations and do not meet the requirements of elders in retirement communities, most of whom resent to be known to be living in any ‘home’.”

So, what’s the need of the hour? “Other ecosystems that make up for the senior living and care sector have not been mentioned at all in these guidelines. For example, assisted living, which is a critical need,” points out Dalal. “A comprehensive set of rules and regulations taking the views of all stakeholders who will provide the required services and care to senior citizens is needed,” responds Col Sridharan. “The Government now needs to speed up the process by issuing GR [government resolution] to all state governments/UTs and give them a timeframe to start implementing the guidelines, and to frame mechanisms and rules. Simultaneously, awareness campaigns should be held for silvers and their local associations and forums using media.”

Also read: Home, Not Alone
March 2019