Citing an estimated increase in the share of senior citizens’ population from eight per cent in 2015 to 19 per cent in 2050 and 34 per cent by the turn of the century, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has issued the Model Retirement Homes Guidelines, setting down the requirements for safety, physical infrastructure, and running of private real estate projects developed specifically for those over 60 years of age.
The guidelines released on Wednesday will be issued to all States and Union territories so that they can incorporate the necessary changes in their respective laws. The guidelines stipulate a building design that is barrier-free and accessible for the elderly, including complete wheelchair accessibility, lifts with audio and visual signalling systems, anti-skid tiles in bathrooms and stairs, kitchens with gas leak detection systems, power back-up facilities in apartments and common areas.
Minister of State (Independent charge) for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Puri said that the model guidelines are meant to “address the special needs and protect the rights of senior citizens living in retirement homes who aspire to spend their retired life independently in a safe, secure and dignified environment.”
The ministry has said that builders could be given addition construction rights (Floor Area Ratio or FAR) for taking up such projects as per the norms.
The guidelines also stipulate provision for care-giving and medical facilities like on-site ambulance service, recreation, security and housekeeping, transportation assistance, yoga and fitness facilities. The ministry has quoted from the India Ageing Report 2017 of the UN Population Fund to state that from 7.6 crore in 2001, senior citizens’ population in India has increased to 10.4 crore in 2011 and is expected to grow to 24 crore by 2050. It adds that the old-age dependency ratio has accordingly increased and is more pronounced in rural areas. “It is also observed that elderly women are likely to live about two years longer than elderly men, a phenomenon known as ‘feminisation of ageing’. This also corresponds to higher old-age dependency ratio for women,” a background report to the guidelines states.
Under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007, every State has to construct and run at least one senior citizen home in every district for 150 persons. However, since this provision falls severely short of the demand in terms of availability and quality, the private real estate sector, including several big developers, have over the last decade launched township projects for senior citizens. The guidelines cite studies to state that “in the absence of specific regulations to govern retirement homes, the residents are vulnerable to various forms of exploitation and mistreatment and their only recourse is to file a civil case which is cumbersome”.