Emmanuel Kamau and his wife Elizabeth Muthoni are in their mid-sixties. The two former civil servants retired a few years ago, long after their four adult children moved out of home, leaving the two of them in their expansive five-bedroom house in Lower Kabete, a place they have called home for over 27 years.
For the last two years, the couple has been mulling over selling their home and buying a smaller house: the big house that they had saved to purchase in their youth had became too big for just the two of them, cold and empty too. They would not mind moving into a flat, where they would bump into their neighbours in the parking lot once in a while.
This couple is just one of many in the country that find themselves in a dilemma when they retire to a huge empty home, their children having long flown from the nest. With no job to report to daily, the loneliness can be confounding. It is with this in mind that a Kenyan construction company began putting up a retirement village in Athi River in Machakos County.
Fadhili Retirement Village, developed by Superior Homes Kenya, is the first purpose-built retirement village in Kenya which solely targets the elderly.
“This is a new concept in Kenya’s real estate market,” says Nicholas Njogu, the manager. “Since we’re building for retirees, the homes are smaller but customised to suit their immediate needs.”
The development sits on five acres of land, and the first 12 cottages out of the 41 earmarked for one-bedroom and two-bedrooms are already complete.
Within the gated community will be a clubhouse which incorporates a clinic as well as a restaurant, gym, spa, swimming pool, and a convenience mini-supermarket.
“I imagine the homeowners retreating to the club in the evening to socialise and perhaps entertain their visitors on weekends,” says Njogu.
Once the facility is complete, it will also have a library, as well as an entertainment room with a TV lounge and a commercial kitchen.
The parking area is located in a central place, in front of the houses, and is therefore visible from each of the homes, while the walkways are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, the design gently elevated – there are no steps anywhere, even when gaining entry to the house – all the entries to the houses have a wide ramp.
Each of the one-bedroom houses occupy 85 square-metres, while the two-bedroom houses occupy 120 square-metres each. The interior features wide doors, mobility aid in the bathroom and toilet, non-slip floor tiling in the kitchen and bathrooms, and wooden flooring in the lounge and in the bedrooms. The widow height is within reach, and all the widows slide open.
“This is also a safety feature as it prevents ‘hit accidents’ which occur with swing widows, especially on verandas,” notes Mr Njogu. The kitchen cabinets are also easy to reach.
“We have also avoided top-height drawers in the kitchen for user convenience,” he adds.
Similarly, the kitchen counters have been lowered for easy reach, while the cooker controls have been placed on the wall below the cooker for easier operation. The interior features, though standardised, are customisable. “We can add more features or redesign depending on one’s specifications,” he adds.
A one-bedroom cottage is going for Sh9.98 million, while the two-bedroom homes cost Sh11.98 million.
The construction company says that the investors that have signed up with them are mainly elderly people whose grown-up children have moved out of home. Majority of these live in the diaspora. All want to downsize to a smaller comfortable space in a quiet and secure environment away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Thanks to the pressure that comes with modern living, the average Kenyan adult hardly has the time to regularly visit his parents between a demanding job, side hustle and raising a family. This means that a number of elderly retired people while away time mostly alone.
Such communities, which give them an opportunity to socialise with their peers, could just be the answer. According to Kenya Demographics Profile 2018, Kenya has about 1.5 million people aged over 60. This number is expected to reach 2.5 million in the next 10 years. A study released in 2015 by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington placed Kenya’s life expectancy at 63 for men and 68 for women, up from 41 and 43 years at independence.