By Rajeshwar Prasad
ShantiNiketan (SN), a retirement community based in Tavares, Florida, about an hour Northwest drive from Orlando. This is an age-restricted community where at least one of the residents should be above 55 years of age. Guest of any age can visit and stay with the residents. Children below the age of 18 can stay only for a maximum of 30 days in a year. Phases one and two of SN are operational with 174 condos – 54 in phase one and 120 in phase 2. The two phases are within a mile on the same boulevard. The gated complex with full security was initiated around 2011 though the concept of developing such a community was floated by Iggy Ignatius, Founder & Chairman, ShantiNiketan Retirement Communities, in 2004. The complexes are closer to shopping area, hospital, YMCA, and about an hour drive to Disney World, and it is about 45 miles from the Orlando International airport.
This is the first retirement community where Indian Americans can spend their golden years among the peers; get rid of loneliness; have clear conscience not to burden their children; and live free of daily chores around the house and if desired to avoid cooking and maintaining kitchen décor. It does not mean that you have no role in SN! Besides the full-time staff, such as cook, landscaper, manager etc. the SN depends heavily on volunteers to keep the residents involved. In short, Condominium Owners Association runs the project through a duly elected Board of Directors under a non-profit entity. The Board is also responsible for the upkeep of the complex and to undertake number of religious, cultural and social activities throughout the year. Celebration of festivals, national days such as Independence Day and Republic Day of India and USA; special presentations on matters of interest such as wills; Durable Power of Attorney etc., presentations by special guests on diversified subjects covering management of assets, pharmaceutical services, transportation services, rehabilitation services etc. are routinely arranged. SN also carries many indoor activities for residents to take advantage of and keep them occupied: these include pool table, table tennis, playing cards, carom, chess, yoga, daily exercise on treadmill, meditation and prayer in the prayer room and discussion groups on pertinent subjects such as Home Health Care. There is also an informal arrangement in case bereavement services are needed and residents in such situations, in particular, consider SN as a large family.
Moving forward, the future plans include development of five more ShantiNiketans. The land has been purchased, and work on phase three has already commenced. So far about half of the condos have been sold in phase 3 & 4. This complex of five SNs will be called ShantiNiketan Village with all amenities on an100 (one hundred) acre area. There will be one SN with single bedroom with no garage where frail elderly people can stay; and in most of the cases free of any charge with their Supplemental Security Income paying for expenses. It will be called ShantiNiketan and will be developed under Tax-exempt Corporation. It will provide seniors a dignified, peaceful and happy environment where they can spend their golden years. The Ashram will help seniors who are unable to support themselves financially, in part or full, and will seek donations from philanthropists and in addition seek financial support from residents if they get Supplemental Social Security (SSI) and Medicaid.