While retirement homes for the elderly are commonplace in the US, they are a new, and growing, phenomenon in India. Reporter Elliot Hannon visits one of the newly constructed Indian retirement communities to see who's moving in.
MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. Here's the way it's supposed to work: your parents care for you as you grow up, and you care for your parents as they grow old. Well, the second part of that equation seems to happen less and less these days. Modern economies tend to reorder the traditional family. A case in point is India. The country's booming economy has brought changes to its family culture, and has led to a new growth area: retirement homes. Elliot Hannon visits one of the new Indian retirement communities to see who's moving in and who's cashing in.
ELLIOT HANNON: If you stand in the middle of the Ustav Ashiana retirement complex, there's a certain sense of dejà vu. Fountains tumble in manicured gardens. Gray-haired retirees shuffle along on afternoon walks. Inside the activity center, card players pair up in the early evening. And elderly spectators gather as a ping pong rally heats up. While it may seem like a Florida retirement village with its leisurely pace, this one is located two hours south of New Delhi in the Indian state of Rajasthan, and the 600-unit complex has a few features you won't find in Ft. Lauderdale. Small speakers around the courtyard send soothing mantras into the night air. They are part of the mediation centers provided for the residents. And for the more devout, a Hindu temple has nightly services. Until recently, you wouldn't find retirement communities like this one in India. This is a country where people are supposed to care for the parents who raised them. It's part of the deal. But the terms of that deal are starting to change, says Jitender Datta. He owns a condo at the Ustav and splits his time between India and Baltimore, Maryland.
JITENDER DATTA: Thirty, forty years back, we never could even think that they should have a separate place for retirement. But now because of the new dynamics of the country for the last probably 15, 16 years, I think it's changing, it's changing a lot. So even your kids probably, they don't want to stay in the same city because they got a better job somewhere else. Just like in the US.
HANNON: As the economy in India has taken off, so have young job seekers, moving from villages to cities, and from Indian cities, to capitals around the world. The new economic climate in the country has meant better-paying opportunities, and more of them. But it also means late hours at the office, or graveyard shifts working for Western companies. All of those changes have affected Indian families, and it's sparked a new market for retirees in India. Varun Gupta is the Director of Ashiana Housing Limited.
VARUN GUPTA: Around 2000, we got serious, we saw the economy change. We saw that there is a requirement, which is gaining. We saw in our projects in Bhiwadi, which were normal group housing, that senior citizens were buying in to those projects.
HANNON: Sensing a growing and untapped market, Ashiana built one of the country's first retirement homes. The very wealthy could already afford to outfit their houses and lives for old age. So Ashiana took aim at a less affluent market, and affordability was key, says Gupta. A one bedroom condo at the Ustav runs about $40,000. That may seem like a great deal in the US, but it's still out of reach for most Indians. Ashiana opened the Ustav in 2004. Sales got off to a slow start, but gradually newspaper ads and word of mouth paid off, and the company sold all 600 units. So it started building two more complexes. For Gupta, that's just the beginning.
GUPTA: We have a plan to get into about ten retirement communities over the next two years. There's huge potential. It should be about $10 billion dollars worth of real estate value in demand, and supply very limited.
HANNON: In the late evening at the Ustav, 50 residents file into a bright hall for a social gathering. The men are decked out in suits and ties and the women are draped with brightly colored saris. They look at ease as they shout over each other to answer trivia questions. And as they debate how to answer "Who is the creator of the universe in Hindu mythology?" it's hard not to think, "Who needs Florida?" For the World, I'm Elliot Hannon, New Delhi.
WERMAN: Elliot also sent us some photos from those Indian retirement communities. You can see those at The World dot org.