SOUTH FORT MYERS — A half-dozen media members from India gathered to watch a slide show about affluent senior living in Shell Point Retirement Community near Sanibel Island.
They were in Southwest Florida last week for a two-day tour of the sprawling Lee County retirement community with 2,300 residents. Corporate executives from Antara Senior Living, based in New Delhi, explained their plans for a senior living development in northern India.
“We have learned things from different communities,” said Tara Singh, chief executive officer of Antara. “We are not real estate. We are not property development. We are senior living.”
Shell Point is the largest continuing care retirement community in Florida, and is among 42 such communities that Singh and others with Antara have visited in the past two years. Antara is a subsidiary of Max India, an insurance and health-care conglomerate.
The aim has been to learn about active senior lifestyle concepts to replicate for a new $100-million retirement community in Dehradun at the base of the Himalayas. Antara aims to open the development in late 2015. It will have 217 independent living apartments and a separate aging center for seniors as they decline, Singh said.
“Five percent of Indians will get some form of dementia,” Singh said.
Shell Point has hosted 15 delegations of international business executives interested in its active living amenities and health services, with the first group visiting in 1998, said Lynn Schneider, assistant vice president of marketing at Shell Point.
“In addition to India, we have had groups of business people from Australia, Italy, Japan, South America and Korea,” she said.
Schneider said Antara is the first group to come back for a follow-up visit and have media members tag along.
“This is not very unusual for us to have groups from around the world look at us,” said Peter Dys, president and chief executive officer of Shell Point. “All of them have a different agenda.”
Dys this past Tuesday addressed members of the media from Times of India, Outlook Business, Indian Express, Financial Express, Zee Business TV and Press Trust of India. The group left Wednesday to visit another senior community in Hudson, N.Y.
Antara’s design partners include the international architectural firm Perkins Eastman, which has done several projects at Moorings Park in Naples, a continuing care retirement community, said Steve Brinkert, vice president of residential services at Moorings Park.
Dan Cinelli, with Perkins Eastman, said some senior living developers from Italy and China have visited Moorings Park to see what it has done.
“They all want western thought,” Cinelli said. “We do show them Moorings Park (designs) because Moorings Park is probably the most cutting-edge nationally.”
The Antara project is for the high-end wealthy in India.
“This is the Hamptons of India,” he said.
American Seniors Housing Association in Washington, D.C., has handled substantial queries from China, said Dave Schless, the association’s president.
“The Chinese are definitely really interested in what we are doing in senior housing, more so than the Indians,” he said.
There are nearly 100 million seniors in India and they represent a “hugely untapped and grossly overlooked opportunity for investment and development,” according to the Association for Senior Living in India. By 2025, the senior population, those 60 and older, will mushroom to 173 million.
Although the India association doesn’t offer specific numbers, its website said significant numbers of seniors have the financial means and desire for an active retirement. More needs to be done to overcome the stigma of elders moving into homes designed for those older in age, the association said.
Jyotsna Bhatnagar, editor of Financial Express in India, was at Shell Point and said there is great interest about the senior living communities in the U.S.
“Normally the children have flown the nest and parents are completely educated and independent and don’t want to stay with their children,” Bhatnagar said. “This concept is picking up very fast. A lot of companies, including life insurance companies, are doing senior living.”
There are about 30 senior living communities in India now and about 30 more are in the pipeline, according to Indian Express. That compares to 2,000 senior living communities in the U.S.
Singh, of Antara, said her company’s planned retirement community in Dehradun is on 20 acres. The site was chosen because of its proximity to both natural resources and urban services such as an airport and hospitals.
“(We are) 20 minutes from Dehradun — the site is very much connected to the city but very private,” she said.
The apartments will range in size from 1,400 to 1,500 square feet for one- to three-bedroom apartments, up to penthouses with 5,500 square feet, Singh said. The starting price is $250,000 up to $1 million, plus monthly maintenance fees.
Antara will use a life-lease model in which a senior couple will stay until they die, and children over age 60 will be eligible to potentially take over the apartment.
The residential buildings will be energy-efficient and have underground basements to connect the buildings for bad weather conditions and to promote a sense of community.
There will be golf carts but the aim is to encourage movement. Besides addressing the physical and medical needs of residents, the development will offer amenities for intellectual and spiritual lifestyles, Singh said.
Antara will market to seniors wanting an active and independent retirement; there will be financial verifications and some background checking to make sure it is attracting the desired clients, she said.
“We are in no hurry to sell out on day one,” she said.