Latest industry developments Things to watch

NZ operators take up DCM Institute village management professional development program

The New Zealand Retirement Villages Association has joint ventured with us to take our ongoing professional development program to New Zealand operators.​

DCM CEO Chris Baynes and I presented the joint initiative at the RVA National Conference in Auckland. Judy Martin and Jill Donaldson also flew across for the launch.

In New Zealand, operators have invested significantly in building trust within the community, together with Government and the peak resident’s association.

In January, the RVA and the Retirement Villages Residents Association of New Zealand (RVRANZ) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), committing to closer collaboration and co-operation.

The establishment of professional development for retirement village management has been a major objective of residents for some time. The RVA Education Committee identified that the DCM Institute program delivered the content, structure and proven participation, and it was a better solution to bring DCMI to New Zealand than attempt to build from scratch.

They identified that as little as 10% of the content requires “Kiwi-ising’.

You are most probably amongst the 350+ village executives now enrolled here in Australia.

It is with your participation and feedback that has allowed us to build DCMI into what it is today, and we must say it’s very rewarding to be recognised by our New Zealand friends who in many areas lead the world in retirement living operations and support of residents.

Things to watch

62% of sales from referrals!!!

Last month I caught up with my great colleague Linda Hooper, National marketing manager with Living Choice, who happened to mention in passing that they had achieved 62% of sales from referrals…

An amazing result by any businesses standard!  So I asked her to elaborate a little more and what I uncovered was a well thought out targeted strategy, synonymous to Living Choices marketing, that is delivering REAL results!

In the retirement living industry, there is nothing more satisfying that seeing the word “Referral” as the advertising source when receiving an enquiry for a village. It’s a powerful validation of not just your marketing team’s efforts but all those who work for the company.

Across the retirement living sector, the incidence of referral is quite low. In our sister company DCM Research’s National resident survey of over 4,000 village residents last year, they found that strong referrals only occurred in 13% of cases. See below.

When Linda first joined Living Choice, they were spending an awful lot of money on traditional advertising, such as print, TV and radio. While this generated a lot of leads, the cost of converting that lead to a settlement was alarmingly high. She soon identified that the referrals, however, had a much higher conversion rate.

Linda with the wider Living Choice team implemented a Referral Reward Program whereby both referrers and those they refer receive a gift voucher on settlement.

While this is a nice “thank-you” present, Linda doesn’t believe it is the main reason for the referral at all – it is just one piece of the Living Choice promise.

Moving into a retirement village is a major decision and people won’t refer a family member or friend unless they are convinced the village ticks a number of important boxes.

In addition to the gift vouchers, Living Choice holds a Gala Reward Event to thank the referrers, those they have referred plus their many resident helpers. They invest considerable marketing funds into these glamorous events and for both residents and the team, these are a highlight on the marketing calendar.

Over the years, the percentage of settlements attributed to referrals has grown to a current 62% of all sales! It’s a percentage that not just the marketing team but all Living Choice staff members and residents can be proud of.

Linda shares “these results also keep the team united and focused on ensuring we deliver on our promise and the best possible lifestyle and care for residents”

Multiple research programs confirm that well over 90% of residents are positively satisfied by their move – as demonstrated from this graph from the same DCM research program last year – it would be great if we can mobilise these satisfied residents!

Latest industry developments Things to watch What the research tells us

Planning ahead – the number of home care providers is about to collapse

Here is something to put in the back of your mind. Our DCM group colleague Chris Baynes is giving a webinar presentation today for 200 IT executives in the aged care space about the reforms from the Royal Commission and the impact it will have on home care and residential care.

He is proposing that the number of home care providers will collapse over the next three years. Some commentators are saying that over 700 providers could be reduced to as few as 50.

The implications for village operators is that the remaining big suppliers will be far more powerful in negotiating to what level they will support village operators in marketing home care as a given support service in a village.

From the chart above, you can see that the 16 largest home care providers have 47% of the Home Care Packages while the 562 small home care providers have just 15% of the Packages.

The Royal Commission reforms require operators to have significantly stronger back office IT and workforce training and oversight. The smaller operators are unlikely to have the cash to make these investments.

At the same time, the home care workforce is likely to be attracted to the higher wages and culture that big operators will be able to offer with the efficiencies and easy technology they will be introducing.

Chris’ advice: keep an eye on your local home care providers and build relationships with the operators that you feel most comfortable with the quality of service but also are most likely to survive.

Key things to help you everyday

Is your village information safe?

Last month when I was in New Zealand, the news of the day was how three public hospitals had their digital systems and patient information hacked, staff were effectively locked out of their digital systems and the Government were potentially being held to ransom.

This got me to thinking about the various digital solutions I have seen around the country in villages and what would the impact be to a village if suddenly their digital system was hacked, they were locked out, the resident information shared publicly or even worse held to ransom.

Only two laptops safe

It also reminded me of an experience I had at the LEADERS SUMMIT in Adelaide in March where the ComwireIT General Manager, Nathan showed us on his laptop that there were about 140 devices in the conference room but only TWO of them were secure, the rest leaving themselves open to a potential cyber threat.  

Cyber attacks can:

  • Cause significant downtime for your business
  • Expose your intellectual property to the public or your competitors
  • Expose your client’s private information to the public
  • Require submission of a Notifiable Data Breach to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

All these things can have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day operations, your brand and depending upon your internal support systems can cost serious money to rectify.

Simple questions

Nathan also asked us a few questions:

  • Where is your data stored? If on a local server, do you complete regular backups?
  • Do you have a Disaster Recovery plan?
  • If it’s stored in the cloud, is it based in Australia or offshore?
  • Who has access to your data?
  • What type of authentication do you have to access your systems?
  • Does your IT roadmap address all these variables?

Nathan clearly saw the shock on our faces and shared with me a few weeks later the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) Essential Eight mitigation strategies to reduce exposure to a cyber-attack:

  • 3rd Party Application Patches need to be managed to reduce the risk of security vulnerabilities
  • Operating System Patches need to be managed
  • Daily backups are a must
  • Application Whitelisting/Anti-Virus management
  • Configuration of Microsoft Office macro settings
  • Review user application hardening
  • Restriction of administrative privileges
  • Implementation of Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Now if you are like me and would like to know some simple solutions for your workplace, click here to download ComwireIT Cyber Security ‘Keep your workplace safe’ checklist

Alternatively, if you would like to take it a step further to obtain an audit of your digital environment or add to your IT Roadmap, contact ComwireIT.


Managing unexpected budget increases in your village

It is that time of year, when many village professionals are nearing the end of the budget planning cycle and starting to present forecast budgets to residents. 

This year, there has been anecdotal evidence that many providers have experienced a variety of unexpected increases to budgets. These have ranged from large increases in insurance premiums, unexpected changes to utilities costs, increased compliance costs and of course, the old chestnut of unexpected maintenance costs that can easily cause budgets to go over the line.

Nevertheless, this is not a result to be feared.

In my experience, there are a number of steps that can be taken to bring residents on the journey to understanding and accepting unexpected budget increases.

They may include:

  • Ensuring the Village Manager is well educated on the budget and required responses
  • Predicting the likely questions and having the explanations easily available
  • Provide explanations to the obvious increases in plain English in the budget papers
  • Ensure a consultative process is used to explain significant increases
  • Liaise with the finance sub-committee as a sounding board and include them in meetings where appropriate
  • Approach individuals you are expecting to have concerns to offer the opportunity for an individual meeting
  • Hold an all-resident budget meeting to explain the increases and ensure residents have the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered
  • Provide an opportunity to have smaller meetings for those with deep concerns
  • Provide an opportunity for individuals to meet with the Village Manager personally to understand the budget
  • If you hear ‘street talk’ rumours, do your best to address them immediately

Remember to act with integrity, in an informed manner and with good intent, and to be confident to express yourself if challenged.  

Latest industry developments

Property Council leading the way for retirement villages in SA

Last week, the Property Council Retirement Living Committee held their first face-to-face committee meeting since the beginning of the pandemic in South Australia. 

As part of their visit, Executive Director Ben Myers (pictured above right) and his team were entrenched in lobbying local politicians in relation to the current legislative review.

On Thursday, the RLC had the opportunity to make representations to the Greens at Parliament House.

That evening, a networking event was held allowing SA operators and the RLC to speak with the Shadow Minister of Health, Chris Picton, who highlighted the importance of the sector and a very balanced view on the role of retirement villages.

Leaving no stone unturned on Friday, Ben and the Property Council’s SA Executive Director, Daniel Gannon, held an intimate lunch with the presiding Minister of Health, Stephen Wade (pictured above left).

The lunch allowed both national and local operators the opportunity to discuss issues facing the sector, including:

  • the importance of choice for the consumer;
  • the impact the Royal Commission may have on retirement living; and
  • the important role that villages will and do play as part of the ageing journey for many South Australians.

Operators shared their commitment to achieving best practice – with 50% of villages now being signed to the Code of Conduct, many working towards Accreditation and I was afforded the opportunity to provide an update on the commitment to professional development and career paths for village professionals.

The Minister also heard about the important role that retirement villages played during the height of the pandemic at no cost to the Government and the intention to continue to provide both ‘user pays’ and federally funded home care services to residents when and if they require them.  

Things to watch


According to the United Nations, elder abuse can be defined as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person”.

In many parts of the world, elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. However, in Australia regulators, consumer advocate groups, organisations and individuals have taken up the fight against elder abuse.

Why not see if your village can join the many other organisations that will be highlighting World Elder Abuse Awareness Day? You could hold an event, host a morning tea, or bring in a guest speaker to raise awareness of elder abuse and highlight the support available for those experiencing it.

Let’s take this opportunity to celebrate the positive contributions of older people in Australia.