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India’s Health Care Sector Looks to Florida for Senior Care Solutions

Antara Senior Living and Media visit Shell Point (3).jpg
Shell Point

Continuing Care for Seniors is big business in Florida. Now, entrepreneurs from India hope to apply a similar business model there.  

A contingent from a New Delhi-based healthcare organization was in Ft. Myers last week visiting Florida’s largest continuing care community – Shell Point – to learn more about the industry.     

Spread over  900 acres near the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River, Shell Point is home to about 2,300  seniors living in houses and apartments. They range from gracious penthouses apartments over-looking the river to small assisted living spaces with golf course views.  

Antara Senior Living is starting much smaller. The company has acquired 20 acres north of New Delhi in the foothills of the Himalayas. The elevation and relative  temperate climate make the area a popular vacation spot.    With an estimated population of 112 million people over age of 60 in India, Antara bets a select few would like to make its planned community their permanent home.    

Times of India reporter Naalam Raaj, who was touring Shell Point with the Antara group, said the project reflects social change in India.

Earlier we had this culture of taking care of our aged ourselves but that’s no longer possible both the husband and wife are working and it’s difficult to take care of the elderly at home,” she said.

The group from Antara spent a couple days at Shell Point checking out the many amenities – from individual gardening plots, to a wood working shop – to an elaborate model train room through which Shell Point Communication Director Lynn Schneider led the tour.   

All of these things are resident driven,” she said. “Shell Point provides the space but what the residents bring is the passion.”

Antara CEO, Tara Singh, said she visited many senior communities across the country, but Shell Point  was a stand out. She loves the sunshine and water views.  

Singh said the friendly staff, which number more than 900, is key. They look after every aspect of resident’s lives, but Singh said Antara will not try to reproduce a downsized Shell Point in the foothills of the Himalayas.

We aren’t copying much, I think we’ve learned a lot and are sort of setting them in the Indian environment.”

Shell Point residents pay a premium for  maintenance free living including planned activities, fine dining, access to health care and a range of comforts some might consider luxuries. It’s a lifestyle many senior Americans can only aspire to.

Raaj said this lifestyle is out of reach for the vast majority of older Indians – even though many would love to be able to retire away from the crowded cities into the hills.  

“The best thing about Shell Point is that it would cut out the hassles of life, which in India are quite a bit,” she said.  “There are just no pavements that are disabled friendly. There’s no movie hall. That aspect would be great, if you could be old and still enjoy a movie.”

Raaj says with its lack of social safety India is one of the worst places in the world in which to grow old. She understands Antara is marketing to a very slim demographic - but said it’s a start. 

“Maybe if change starts at the top then there could possibly be communities for the middle class that will come up but somebody has to show the way,” she said.  

By 2020,  the World Health Organization estimates India’s senior population will number 142 million. In a changing society marked by urbanization and a shift from extended to nuclear families, Singh said how to deal with the greying of India is just beginning to enter the national conversation.

“The country in terms of policy, as well as private players like us, are definitely looking at evolving India to that. It will take some time to do it but at the moment it doesn’t exist,” she said.

Meanwhile Antara’s full service senior community, with 217 apartments,  is almost ready to move from blue-print to reality. Residents should be able to move in in the fall of 2015.