Coming to a new country gives you many opportunities but it also can be an isolating experience. I have myself spent Diwali and Holi at home and have felt miserable. I didn’t want our elders to feel the same way and hence thought of bringing them together in a community set up – Dr Anuja Gupta

The idea is to give the elders a holistic feeling of community living. There will be yoga sessions, fitness studio a salon for ladies, Bollywood shows as well as bhajan and kirtan sessions

Not too many elders from our community seek care facilities for prolonged illnesses such as knee or hip replacement or strokes. The idea of setting up a medical facility is to give them a chance to recuperate comfortably

The facility that is coming up in Schaumburg area is a perfect location as it is one of the very culturally diverse areas of Chicago. Indian seniors feel very well assimilated because of nearness to various temples, ethnic groceries and medical facilities.

A lot of the now aging Indian population in America worked very hard to establish themselves in the country. They did odd jobs to ensure financial stability for their kids and it is about time that they get to enjoy this phase of their lives.

Verandah will have 55 townhomes, 75 condos and a medical facility with 80 beds. There will also be an option of assisted living as well as memory care clinic for the seniors.

Dr Gupta was also recently awarded the Business Person of the Year 2017 for Verandah. 

Dr Anuja Gupta, a practicing cardiologist in Chicago came to the US for her further studies and made the country her home. After spending many years in the US and meeting people from all demographics and communities during the course of her profession she was particularly impressed by the post retirement life that the Americans could enjoy. It was her dream to create a place for her community too where the seniors could feel at home and spend their golden years in ease and in leisure without missing the familiarity of their own country.
Her quest to give back to the seniors the life that they deserve made her to conceptualize Verandah – a retirement community in the city that aims to bring in the best of Indian and American cultures and provide for the seniors in the community a viable option to live and socialize fully even after retirement.
Dr Gupta who is also the general partner of Verandah talks to Hi India about her vision for the elderly and why Chicago is one of the best places in the country for a project like this one.

Dr Anuja Gupta has a definite soft spot for the elderly. A physician by profession it comes naturally for her to be compassionate about the innocent and the vulnerable population. Having spent her professional years in the country Dr Gupta whose job requires selfless devotion was also always on a look out to create a conducive atmosphere for the older Indian population so that they could enjoy their twilight years free of stress and strains of everyday micro managing life. Dr Gupta along with a few like-minded people conceptualized a unique retirement community called Verandah. The project is currently in construction stage and is all set for its launch next year.
Located in Hanover Park in Schaumberg area in the city, Verandah will have for sale townhomes and condominium for senior citizens.
Talking about her ambitious project and the motivation behind it Dr Gupta shares, “I have been extremely close to elderly people all my life. They have always formed a central figure in my life so it came as an obvious step for me to try and do something that makes life easier and enjoyable for them.”
On why she chose to think of something that could interest the seniors, Dr Gupta cites both emotional and practical reasons. She says, “On an emotional level, seniors always were very high up in my life.” Recalling her growing up years in Mumbai she says, “When I was a young school going girl I remember there was an elderly lady who used to stay close to my house. I was so attached to her that I would literally go to her house after my school and spend long hours with my neighbours. I have always felt an instant connection with people from an older age group.”

Another important reason on why seniors deserve a place where they can meet like-minded people is the fact that for those who came to the US, life certainly is dramatically different from what it is in India. Dr Gupta says, “In India even if people do not have too much money they at least have a very vibrant social life. This is something that is missing in America.”
She adds, “I see so many Indian elders would spend their time watching TV and feel lonely and isolated. There is a limited social interaction in America and that definitely is felt more acutely once you are retired or are old and looking for some company.”
What worked, as a catalyst for Dr Gupta to give wings to her dreams was the smooth transition she saw Americans had when they retired. She says, “I was impressed by the retirement system and the retirement homes and the fact that people were able to enjoy that stage. It was a novel experience because in India we do not have anything quite like this."
It was then that Dr Gupta began exploring on what were her options to bring to the community a similar set up that guaranteed socially vibrant life along with the amenities without the constant responsibilities that come with maintaining a household singlehandedly while taking care of ones’ aging needs.
She shares, “It was during this time that I visited Shanti Niketan in Florida and was blown away by the arrangement they offered for the seniors. When I saw the seniors there it was a uplifting feeling to see them so happy and engaged in their lives.”

Dr Anuja Gupta shares, “When I came back to Chicago from my trip I was even more convinced that a facility such as this one is the need of the hour. Also Chicago served as a perfect place as it is amongst one of the places with the largest concentration of Indian American community. Once we had a rough draft of our plans we also had to additionally look for a place within the city that has all the important amenities for the senior community members not to run far for errands.” According to Dr Gupta, the choice of the location – Hanover Park in Schaumburg served as an ideal place for its central location. Located within the easy access to the Elgin O’Hare expressway it is just 20 minutes away from airport. The downtown area too is about 40 minutes away and most importantly there are a lot of temples and religious places in the vicinity. The clubhouse according to Dr Gupta forms the focal of all activities in the project and the seniors would have a chance to come here and enjoy a chitchat session amongst many other activities. The place would also provide on demand multicultural meals. Dr Gupta says, “Indians who have lived in America for so long are so well assimilated in the system that we realized that they enjoy the best of both the worlds. So while there will be a vegetarian menu comprising Indian food there will also be Mexican, Thai and other cuisines by rotation. Those who are non-vegetarian are free to cook in their kitchens too.” This apart there is a plan that all Indian as well as American festivals would be celebrated with great pomp. From Diwali to Holi to Christmas and Thanksgiving the elders will have a chance to celebrate together and feel the bond of community during events such as these.

Another very strong reason in Dr Gupta’s heart for setting up a community that brings elders together was the fact that this is the first generation of Indians who came to America that are reaching their twilight years. Dr Gupta says, “The generation that came before us had a lot tougher time than the professionals who began coming towards the 90’s.” Often these people had decent jobs and businesses back home but they struggled to find a footing here. They had language barriers, often worked in shifts and did odd jobs to give to their children a secure upbringing in their adopted country.” She says, “If there is anyone who deserves a comfortable and happy life post retirement it is them. Because their struggles were unique and very often they spent much of their youth struggling and working very hard. It is about time that they relax and smile at life in leisure and peace.”

While the idea of having a community where elders can stay together and share with each other their joys and sorrows sounds idyllic, the fact remains that the sub continent families also have certain stigmas attached to the notion of sending their parents in retirement homes. Dr Anuja Gupta agrees. She says, “Yes, we did have that in mind when we started. In fact even amongst some of my circle of friends and acquaintances that are doctors would say that they would never send their parents to senior homes. However the more people get to know about facilities such as these they become open to the idea. Another reason why many seniors from our community do not go to senior homes or even senior care facilities is also because of lack of exposure. During my practice I have met many doctors who would say that old-age related sicknesses that required prolonged care in medical facilities are seldom frequented by Indians. Even though the seniors need treatments they do not feel at home in an all American set up where they may feel a bit uncomfortable because of language, food or cultural habits. Dr Gupta explains that is the reason why we set up a medical center within the premises.
The construction that is going on in phases has received an overwhelming response from the community. Dr Gupta hopes that her initiative inspires more people to make life easier and enjoyable for the elderly. He aim she says is – “To bring mazaa and masti back in the life of elders.”

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Update: 08-October-2017



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