Creat. Sp.

Assessing the Need of Adaptive Changes for Emerging NORCs in Urban India

Sutapa Das, Mousumi Gupta, Shivashish Boss


Aging of population, Urban India, NORC, Adaptive Changes, Elderly Housing, Barrier-free.

PUBLISHER The Author(s) 2016. This article is published with open access at

Due to population ageing, today’s high-rise apartments in Indian cities, which are currently mainly owned by young professionals, will turn into naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs) in near future. Though many urban housing complexes of 1970s and 1980s are already serving as NORCs, the term is comparatively new to Indian housing research. This huge existing housing stock is inadequate for special gerontological needs of the elderly, who are fragile and socially vulnerable. Informal opinion of common people revealed that holistic requirement for elderly in housing is still grossly confused with vertical transport, i.e., elevators, and little attention is paid to other architectural features. As part of an ongoing doctoral study, a detailed literature review was undertaken on the vulnerability profile of Indian urban elderly in the context of special requirements of barrier-free housing. This article aims to establish the urgent need to assess the adaptive potential of existing housing communities serving as NORCs in Indian cities, such that new housing in the future can be planned with flexible approach.


Globally, the escalation in elderly population with age of 60 years or above has surpassed the population growth in general by 116% annually, combined with an expected hike in median age from 28 in 2010 to 38 in 2050 [57]. Such a social transition, from high mortality-high fertility to low mortalitylow fertility, is termed as population ageing. Though the developing world needs another four decades to reach the present aged status of the developed world, the phenomenon of population ageing has become faster in the developing countries. As a result of this and also due to the paucity of other resources, these nations too will face more hardships in adjusting to the consequences.

India, in its Census of 2011 [29], for the first time since its independence in 1947, has recorded sharpest decline of 3.7% in population growth rate between 2001 and 2011. During this time-span, it has also noted increase in (a) life expectancy from 65 years to 66.8 years and, (b) rise in the number of senior citizens from 7.5% to 8.0%. The latter is expected to be 12.5% by 2025 [40]. The old-age dependency ratio (i.e., number of persons aged above 60 years per 100 persons in the age-group of 15-59 years) in India so far is 10.46, which reflects higher social dividend compared to developed countries. The traditional structure of Indian joint families where elderly people were respectfully looked after by children or grand children [38] is changing, primarily with the youth settling away from their hometowns due to social or professional reasons. NSSO reported in 2006 that 10.4% seniors lived with spouses and 4.3% lived alone where single ladies had a higher share [35].

The unprecedented, pervasive reality of ageing [57] has a challenging effect on socio-economic structure with huge financial burden on the government [2]. UN International Plan of Action on ageing [56] suggests a three-pronged strategy: (1) inclusion of the elderly in development process (2) provision for geriatric health and well-being and, (3) creating positive strategies that can enable supportive environments for elderly. The last one further suggests:

  • ‘Ageing in place’ within the community as per individual preferences and affordability.
  • Specially designed housing to facilitate independent living even for elderly with disabilities.

India has adopted these strategies very recently [50]. But the existing housing stock with no such purpose is a huge resource that claims attention for an agefriendly adaptive reuse. As an initial outcome of an ongoing Ph.D. research, this article aims to explore this issue with a focus on multi-storey apartment complexes of Indian megacities.

Page(s) 115–132
ISSN Print : 2321-3892, Online : 2321-7154
DOI 10.15415/cs.2016.41007

This article elicits the findings of a preliminary stage of doctoral research on Indian NORCs. It discussed the ageing profile of urban Indian society, its vulnerability and special needs. From the detailed discussion, the urgent need to assess the adaptive potential of existing residential multi-storied towers serving as NORC in Indian cities was established. Along with this, it also inferred that it is essential to promote housings that must have special policies, flexible designs or planning methodology for age-friendly adaptive reuse. Both cases will receive a boost from the fact that a close network of services and support systems in a high-rise is easier and cheaper to achieve rather than in a scattered neighbourhood. Hence, physical planning through interactive common areas connecting the elderly residents should be emphasized.

However, the current scenario of a fast depleting social support and manpower now requires that the smart technologies become affordable and available inexpensive devices such as CCTV network, intercom, burglar alarm, etc., which are in profound use in offices, can be used successfully in the residential units. Once prices for other smart technologies begin to fall, these can be slowly introduced in phases as per the residents’ preference. As culture plays a big role in defining occupants’ satisfaction in a built environment, a generic design may not be recommended. Here, study of the social context of occupants, which varies for users from different backgrounds, is also important because machines cannot understand this vital factor.

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