Sponsored: The senior citizens’ Independent Living Communities
By Benard Ojwaya
With Kenya’s population estimated at 52 million and projected to rise to 66 million in 2030, senior citizens (60+) will account for 7% of the nation’s total population by 2030, up from below 5% in 2015.
According to the UN, by 2050, the number of Kenyan’s aged 65 and over could triple to 9 million with about 0.4 million people expected to enter the age group in the next 5 years.
It is projected that the proportion of the working age population (15-59) will increase from about 46% in 2015 to 61% in 2050. This demographic shift, coupled with the most inevitable, on-going global phenomenon, Urbanization, presents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs.
That is critically so, in the mushrooming senior-living industry, which includes everything from independent living communities with minimal custodial and no-medical support to full-blown nursing homes.
Traditionally, Kenyans have accustomed to the ‘Nyumba ya Wazee’ practise of admittedly checking in the old generational lot into an assisted living home and later transitioning them to or occasionally directly into a nursing care centre.
By definition, Assisted Living Communities are designed for seniors who need regular help with daily activities (bathing, dressing, toileting, walking, medication reminders) but who do not need a nursing care facility. Such facilities offer a custodial level of care for seniors with some functional impairments, either physical or cognitive.
Nursing Care Facilities on the other hand provide, in addition to custodial care, intermediate care (occasionally includes skilled care for skilled nursing facilities). But the question is, would you put your own mother in any old assisted living home?
The current generation of senior citizens (mostly baby boomers) will not be retiring, rather they will be changing work – transitioning from one engagement to the other. With great advances in technology and the overbearing, if-not coercive pressure on adults to stay independent, even at old age, developers have to constantly and innovatively predict what the seniors ‘want to do next’.
In this way, the developers will consistently adopt to their new customers’ changing expectations about the good life in retirement. Definitively, Independent senior living communities are housing designed for seniors 55 years and older.
Residents include seniors who do not require assistance with daily activities or 24/7 skilled nursing, but may benefit from convenient services, senior-friendly surroundings, and increased social opportunities that such communities offer.
They are also popular among ‘snowbird seniors’ who wish to downsize or travel freely without the burden of managing a home.
The boomers aren’t going to be crammed in an ‘age ghetto’. Conscientiously, they’re going to decide where to live, what to do while there and who, by extension, to live next to. The planning for such retirement facilities thus has to incorporate the need for non-segregated, intergenerational communities.
The score-line here is ‘Inclusivity and Convenience’.
Rejuvenate the feeling of a retirement being anything but boring by developing an all rounded community offering opportunity for the residents to indulge in all manner of activities – ranging from cultural events to daily or occasional exercises.
Preferably, the community should be planned as part of an integrated neighbourhood incorporating a range of mixed uses or as a stand-alone community within a larger, interconnected city-wide network.
However in the latter case, the key is ease of access and proximity of other complimentary facilities like recreational grounds, social facilities, commercial nodes, retail centres, and business parks.
Don’t create extremely quiet and lonely dens. Not necessarily complicated, the individual units need to be simply beautiful but functionally efficient. They should be intentionally planned to allow for ease of access, constant non-assisted mobility and general user convenience.
Maintenance should be critically considered and deliberate choices made to ensure a product that does not require frequent resurfacing and/or renovations. Avoid the possibility of a resulting feel of a drab, neglected development.
With the shifting demographic, Kenya’s working class population is expected to hit the highs of about 60 million in 2050. Powered by economic globalization, this majority number population will shift expectations of healthcare for the seniors – healthcare providers will have to shift their focus from medical interventions to life quality maintenance.
Top-tier healthcare will not be good enough. The approach will have to harness the power of advances in information technology to deliver localised solutions, not necessarily in physical terms, but through clinical correspondence.
The developers have to consider that in certain causal instances, palliative care may be needed.
Security and access control is an important parameter when considering housing for seniors. Needless to say, seniors’ peace of mind needs to be ensured by planning for advanced security measures. The first-of-line measure should be close co-operation and communications with the community police forums, local neighbourhood watch and integrated security surveillance network.
This should be amplified by physical access control ranging from perimeter fence-line to Intruder alarm system to controlled and guided entrance allowing for in-bound traffic screening. Responses to breach must also be considered with options like a centralised panic / alarm system and firefighting equipment and vehicles.
Market & Financing
According to Forbes, the major challenge in finance structuring for retirement communities is addressing the needs of the middle-income, middle-market segment. Traditionally, developers have favoured products styled for the well-off aging segment of the population leaving social foundations to serve the low-income segment.
This has, in a way, segregated the middle-class senior persons who are in most need of the services but aren’t awash with the requisite finances. This presents a big demand for senior housing and obviously a great scale in as far as capital is concerned.
On the bright side, is the earlier stated population demographic – majority proportion of Kenya’s citizenry (46%) falls within the working class category, this presents ‘time’ as a positive dependency that can be creatively employed to compound their contribution to the scheme.
Integration of the community into the neighbourhood will serve to justify the intergenerational concept of inclusivity. The result would be a market responsive development that does not necessarily address the singular need of the seniors but is well adaptive to the changing needs and/or circumstances of the ‘family’.
Management & Operations
With a possibility of diminished earnings or just due to non-response to heavy financial commitments, the developers need to create a stable investment opportunity for the senior residents. The levies need to be subsidised where possible but for certain have to be stabilised over the longer term.
This will help reduce the prospect of substantial increases in common levies and prevent the uncertainty of special levies being raised. The management team has to be professional and experienced. To ensure constant buy-in, the community should be managed by the home owners through an association, supported by an incorporated professional management team.
The residents should leverage the wealth of business experience in the pool of homeowners while nominating and/or appointing directorship to the association.
The writer is in charge of Project Management Development Planning, Centum Real Estate