Top 5 things to look for in a retirement community

bbcWith changing times come new challenges.  And new challenges require us to break the old rules and mindset and think differently.

It is now time that older Indians seriously start considering moving into retirement communities.  With children and family spread around the world and infrastructure and general support being poor, the thought of moving into a retirement community should not be anathema to us anymore.  However, finding a good retirement community that not only meets your needs today but will be able to take care of you as you age is not easy.  Here are 5 things you need to consider when reviewing a retirement community:

1.  Location.
Find a retirement community that is in your home state – this will eliminate a lot of language and cultural issues.  Look for homes that are not too remote, have temperate climate through out the year (warmer better than cooler as you age, so if you have to decide between a place that gets hot in summer versus one that gets cold in winter, go with the former), have good hospitals and medical facilities nearby, in proximity to a city and well connected by road, rail and air.

2. Real estate vs. real service
Many real estate companies position their new properties as retirement communities as a way of finding new customers.  These companies are neither geared to build apartments that are suitable for senior citizens not are they capable of running retirement homes efficiently.  Once you have bought your home, they will leave you to fend for yourself.

When looking for a retirement community choose an organization that has a track record in running retirement homes. Find out what plans they have in terms of continued operations.  Preferably choose one that is already operational so that you can see them in action before committing.  The services that they offer should include general maintenance, house keeping, laundry services, food and kitchen services, medical attention and services, and completed assisted living services (even if you don’t need many of these services yet).

3.  Privacy and activities
Where budgets allow, always choose homes that balance your privacy and social activity nicely.  Neither secluded apartments nor dormitory style accommodation is suitable.  Ideally singles should have studio apartments and couple should have a 1 or 2-bedroom apartment with a functional kitchen.  This way, you can choose solitude when you want.

Additionally, the retirement community should provide sufficient social activity so that residents can be active, make new friends and enjoy each others’ company.  In later years, loneliness is the biggest enemy.

4.  Price point and models
Many retirement communities provide options to outright purchase apartments, lease long and short term as well as rental options.  Each of these have their pros and cons and you should consider each of these options carefully before deciding what is right for you. Also remember, there is one other cost component which is the monthly maintenance cost.  Depending on the services you take on, this could be anywhere between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 1,00,000.  Typical services include general maintenance, house keeping, laundry services, kitchen services, medical assistance and complete assisted living and there is cost associated with each of these services.

5. Services.
It is actually quite amazing how many different services we need to lead a normal life.  And since you are likely to be in a gated community, it is important that all these services are available to you when you need them. More of the services a retirement community provides, the better for you.  A typical list of services provided should include all or most of the following:

In the apartment
Studio Apartment/One Bedroom Apartment/Two Bedroom Apartment
Airconditioning
Emergency Call System
Full Kitchen
Keep pets

Care
Ambulation support
Assisted Living
Incontinence Management
Diabetes Care
Independent Living
Medication Management
Memory Care

Amenities
Fitness Room
Outside Patio
Parking Provided
Private Dining Room
TV and Media Room

Services
24 Hour Staffing
Beauty/Barber Shop
Dedicated Concierge
Fitness Program
Full-Time Activity Director
Guest Meals
Housekeeping
Personal Laundry
Linen Services
Personal Transportation Provided
Restaurant-style Dining
Spiritual Services
Three Meals Daily
Transportation to Medical Appointments

Others
Cable/DTH
Internet
Library
Physical therapy, Occupational therapy, and Speech therapy
Billiards room
Guest/visitor stay facilities

On top of it all, you should have all the freedom you deserve.  You should be able to order and eat what you want (within your own dietary limitations), have access to non-vegetarian dishes (if you are non-veg), have the ability to travel out without restrictions, leave on extended vacations if you so wish (while your apartment is taken care of), have access to a bar/alcohol if you wish, have people visit you without restriction and so on.

Moving into a retirement community is the second best thing to having your family around you all the time. Retirement communities can help you lead a productive and active life and your children will know you have access to all the care that you need.

Income tax savings through senior citizen parents

incometaxIn an interview to CNBC-TV18, Subash Lakhotia, Tax & Investment Consultant shared his reading and outlook on tax exemption limits for senior citizens.

Talking on the subject, he says since the basic income tax exemption for a 60-year plus and 80-year plus senior citizen is Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 5 lakh respectively, it is a good idea for the tax payer to give away money to his/her parents and then parents make investments in their own name.

Here are a few questions he has answered:

Q: Senior citizens enjoy a higher basic tax exemption limit along with a higher rate of returns on savings. Would it make sense for big family investments to be made in the senior citizens’ name? I am referring to investments which are over and above the purview of 80C?

Q: What if the heirs start fighting for it afterwards?

Q: I am a professional who owns a property which is rented out. The property is in joint name of my wife and me. It is a freehold property with no loans. Can gifting this property to my wife reduce my tax liability?

Go here to read the answers.

How safe is your capital?

Safety of capital will be on top of the financial priority list of a retired individual/senior citizen; and rightly so. With limited means of cash flows, safeguarding the capital, which would provide some income by way of interest, is important.

And yet, have the typical safe modes such as deposits offered you enough by way of return? Not so in recent years suggests this data from JP Morgan Asset Management. Across the Asian countries mentioned below, deposit rates managed to beat inflation and leave you with some surplus (returns mentioned below are deposit rates post yearly inflation) until 2007.

depositrate

Source: Asia Outlook Q1 2013 report of JP Morgan Asset Management

However, since the start of the economic slowdown in 2008, most Asian countries have seen either lower interest rates and low growth or high inflation. As a result, investors in deposits have ‘negative real returns’. For India, rising prices were higher than deposit rates by 1.9%. Simply put, the interest income from deposits has not helped you keep pace with rising cost of goods. Net result, you would have had to dig in to your capital/savings to meet it. Now in a way, that too amounts to erosion of capital does it not? That means, while you may not lose your capital through risky investments, you lose it to a lethal force called inflation.

Way out?

But what choice do you have to combat this? Not much but here are a few suggestions: Ensure that you diversify your investments across a few products. Of course, you do not have to compromise on the quantum of risk you can take. If you want only debt products, look beyond bank deposits. There would be times when top-rated bonds and debentures come up with good rates. Be on the look-out and lock into them. Keep a demat account ready for this purpose as most bonds require you to have a demat account. Explore corporate deposits in credit worthy companies that are rated. Avoid going for unrated companies unless you have knowledge on the financials of such companies.

Ensure that instruments have high credit rating such as AAA before you invest either in bonds or deposits. Look for short-term debt mutual funds that have delivered not less than 7 per cent annually in the past and have at least a three-year record. Use systematic transfer plan in these options if you wish to get a steady payout.

Even with all this, there is no guarantee that you will successfully combat inflation. The fact is that if you had a sufficiently large corpus, you can simply park your money in instruments that earn 6-7 per cent and still not worry too much about erosion in capital.

But such a corpus could have been built only if you had invested in asset classes such as equities and real estate early on in life. If you have missed the bus, advice your children to invest early, invest systematically and in inflation-beating asset classes. They can always move their money later to deposits, when their risk-taking ability diminishes.

This article has been written by Vidya Bala of our financial advisory team.  Write to advice@oldisgoldstore.com if you would like us to answer any of your questions or address a specific topic..

Battery operated buggy services at railway stations for senior citizens

A battery-operated car service is available at many of the main railway stations around India.  Most of stations have prominent boards with phone numbers to call.

Buggy board at Mysore

Chennai Central Station  –  99403 56789
Chennai Egmore Station –   99520 56789
Bangalore City Station –   99007 89789
Mysore City Station –   99000 12333

Help us collate this important information by mailing photos of such boards in various railway stations to involve@oldisgoldstore.com.

Top 5 places for long life

There are a few places around the world which seem to allow people to live for many more years than expected.  In Ikaria, for example, the average lifespan is a good 10 years more than the rest of western Europe.

What makes these places special is not quite clear, though it is unlikely to be any one specific reason.  In all probability, a combination of factors allow many people in these areas to lead active lives well into their 90’s and even beyond 100!  Location, weather, food habits and diet, work culture, and genetics could all be working together to provide the best environment for living, making them the true Shangri-las of this world.

The top 5 locations, known as blue zones are:

Ikaria, Greece

Ikaria got its name from the Greek myth of Icarus who, legend has it, plunged into the sea close to the island when his wax and feather wings melted. For centuries it was known as a health destination because of natural hot springs on the island.

ikaria

Island of Okinawa, Japan

The name Okinawa means “rope in the open sea”, a fairly apt description of this long stretch of islands between mainland Japan and Taiwan. Consisting of 49 inhabited islands and 111 uninhabited islands, Okinawa has a subtropical/tropical climate.

okinawaOkinawa’s most famous export worldwide is the martial art of karate. In recent years Okinawan culture has become quite popular throughout Japan thanks to popular musicians and local foods.  Okinawan music is very attractive and unique because of the mixture of original Okinawan sounds and American rock, jazz, and other sounds from the USA.

Ancient Chinese legends already called Okinawa “the land of the immortals”.  In 2007, there were 457 persons on Okinawa aged 100 or over, an average of 35 for each 100,000 inhabitants. It is the highest in the world.

Loma Linda, California, US

Loma Linda is a unique community of 21,000. The city has been a national center of health and wellness research for decades. Loma Linda offers residents an alternative to the intense, often anonymous lifestyle so characteristic of modern life. It is no surprise to find numerous families strolling along the city’s tree lined streets, or playing in its numerous parks.

loma_lindaThe community has discovered a secret that’s much easier to find than any gene. Its effect is so powerful that it enables them to live longer than anyone else in the US.  For many of those living in Loma Lindo long life is a matter of faith. A significant number of people in the town are Seventh Day Adventist, a religion whose members live between five and 10 years longer than fellow citizens.

Nuoro province, Sardinia

The Province of Nuoro (Italian: Provincia di Nuoro; Sardinian: Provìntzia de Nùgoro) is a province in the autonomous island region of Sardinia, Italy. Its capital is the city of Nuoro.

nuoroThe province hosts some of the wildest and most beautiful natural landscapes in the world. Part of these landscapes has been included in the National Park of the Gulf of Orosei and Gennargentu which straddles the border between the Provinces of Nuoro and Ogliastra.

The Province of Nuoro is one of Europe’s less-densely populated areas. However, it is known for its high concentration of centenarians and supercentenarians.

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Nicoya Peninsula is about 70 miles long and 30 miles wide. Surfer beaches and upscale resorts hem the peninsula’s western edge. But inland, forest-covered hills and cow pastures blanket most of the terrain.

NicoyaIn 2005, Dr. Luis Rosero-Bixby, a Costa Rican demographer trained in the United States, presented a paper at an international conference claiming to have discovered that 60-year-old Costa Ricans have the longest life expectancy of anyone in the world. In other words, if you are middle aged and live in Costa Rica, you are more likely to reach, say, a healthy age 90 than your counterparts worldwide.

Are there any such places in India?

A little understanding…

From AARP Site‎

understanding“My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me.
Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way… remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day… the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don’t feel sad… just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you… my darling daughter. ”

Original Text in Spanish and Photo by Guillermo Peña.
Translation to English by Sergio Cadena.

Zohra Sehgal – 100 years and going strong

zohraThe grand old lady of Indian Cinema, Zohra Sehgal — famous for her vivaciousness and enthusiasm — turned 100 on April 27. Sehgal currently resides in Delhi with her daughter, Kiran Sehgal, and the sprightly actor’s zest for life is still intact.

She started her career in 1935 as a leading dancer with the Uday Shankar Ballet Company and traveled the world over. In 1945, she joined Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatre group as an actor on a monthly salary of Rs 400. She worked with him for almost 14 years.

During this period, she married a fellow dancer, Kameshwar Sehgal. After having acted in several plays, she made her film debut in Indian People’s Theatre Association’s (IPTA) first film, Dharti Ke Lal (1946), which was directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas.

Her passion for the art won her a drama scholarship in Great Britain in 1962. In the late ’70s she was rediscovered by the makers of British TV shows and films. Following serials such as Jewel in the Crown, My Beautiful Launderette and Tandoori Nights, her sense of humour and candour became very popular. Movies such as Bhaji on the Beach and Merchant Ivory Productions’ The Courtesans of Bombay enhanced her popularity in the West.  She returned to India in the ’90s and continued her acting career with TV serials such as Amma and Family. She has also acted in big bollywood block busters including Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Dil Se, Tera Jaadu Chal Gaya and Saawariya.

We wish her many more years of active life.