The immortal words of John Denver's famous song, "Take me home to the place where I belong," resonate deeply
with countless Retiring NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) living across the globe. Many of these individuals departed India during the 1960s and 1970s, when they were young and filled with ambition. Foreign countries eagerly courted them, recognizing their expertise and contributions in building and strengthening their infrastructure. As a result, NRIs acquired citizenship in these foreign lands, achieved financial success, raised families, and occasionally returned to India for familial visits or to shop for their children’s weddings. However, now that these NRIs find themselves approaching the twilight of their lives, many are contemplating a return to India, carrying with them a romanticized view of a homeland that may no longer exist.
Retired Active Seniors
Recently, during my volunteer work with Indian seniors, I had the privilege of speaking with a 92-year-old Sindhi gentleman, caring for his wife afflicted with dementia. This childless, elderly man navigates the complexities of daily life in the US, managing household affairs and tending to his wife's needs while juggling paperwork and coordinating with the various staff members assisting them. He expressed his desire for me to research potential retirement options in Bharat, as he aims to maximize his savings and social security benefits in Bharat because he doesn’t want to pay over $6,000 per month only for part time staffing. He also feels his niece and nephew will be around to help them, once they move back to Bharat.
In another poignant encounter, I met a Gujarati lady in her 70s who described herself as homeless. Her husband had abandoned her, and they had no children. She was residing in a downtown Los Angeles shelter surrounded by drug addicts. It was disheartening to learn that within a community often celebrated as the 'Model Minority' in the US, a senior citizen of our community was living in these conditions. With the financial support from social security, she contemplated returning to India for a more comfortable retirement surrounded by extended family.
Retire in India/Bharat
Choosing to retire in Bharat, the ancestral homeland, as opposed to aging in foreign countries, presents both advantages and disadvantages, with the answer to what is "better" varying significantly based on individual circumstances and priorities. Factors such as the cost of living, healthcare quality, family and social support, infrastructure, and legal (visa-related) matters all play a role in this decision.
Nevertheless, NRIs from the USA, Canada, England, Australia, and more are actively researching the possibility of "coming home" to spend their golden years. An aggregator site that I founded https://www.retirednri.org/" aims to unite these older NRIs, enabling them to share their experiences, create a retired NRI community, and specifically explore the nuances of retiring as NRIs in their adopted land or country of origin.
India's own Census reports predict that the population of individuals over 60 years old will constitute 16% of the total population in India. With increased life expectancy and the decline of the joint family system, many of these seniors are seeking suitable facilities where they can spend their twilight years. When you add the NRI population who wish to return to Bharat to this growing demographic, it raises a pertinent question: Is Bharat ready to accommodate them?
NRIs are accustomed to a certain lifestyle and expect a regulated infrastructure. Currently, there is no overarching government body that provides a rating system for retirement facilities. Consequently, many NRIs gravitate toward private, high-end retirement communities in major cities. Will the elder care industry in Bharat skew in favor of the needs of the NRI senior citizen market?
The nostalgia for Bharat runs deep among NRIs. Reminiscing about joyful memories from the past can boost mood, reduce stress, and foster feelings of social connectedness. It reminds them of their roots and heritage, grounding them in their personal histories. The question remains: will the NRIs' journey "back home" be a successful one?
As NRIs contemplate returning to Bharat for their retirement, it's crucial to address the challenges they may face and ensure that the infrastructure, support systems, and facilities are prepared to accommodate their unique needs. While the romanticized notion of "home" beckons, it's essential to strike a balance between nostalgia and practicality to ensure a fulfilling retirement for NRIs returning to their motherland.