Facility Manager

“You can’t be everything to everyone”: Uniting NSW.ACT Area Village Manager Ali Worrell

It is vitally important for a retirement village manager to encourage the residents to be as independent as they can be.

“You can’t be everything to everyone,” says Ali Worrell, who in January became Uniting NSW.ACT’s South Coast Area Manager, with responsibility for seven retirement villages from Figtree, an inner western suburb of Wollongong, to Batemans Bay, 191km south. She also became Village Manager for Cooinda Village in Batemans Bay.

“Residents will learn when to ask and when not to. Always be honest with them, never over promise,” she said.

“You build trust with your residents and once they know and understand you, you build a relationship with them.”

Ali though said it was important to know and understand the residents as they can change when something happens in their life and it is important to be able to recognise when that occurs.

“Situations occur that can floor a resident and you have to be able to spot that and try and support them,” she said.

Of course, all residents are different.

“It’s your life to live. We have residents who get in their camper van and head off for several weeks, come back, and then head off again. Then there are residents who are happiest in the village.”

Ali loves her communities and calls most of them “beautiful”.

“One resident locked themselves out at 7pm at night. I had to go to the village and let them in,” said Ali.

“The next day the resident gave me a cutting from a cactus plant and a thank you note.”

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Uniting Bowden Brae Welcomes Youngest Change Makers

As National Volunteer Week celebrates the incredible contributions of volunteers across the country, Uniting Bowden Brae Residential Aged Care home in Normanhurst is thrilled to welcome students from Pymble Ladies College Junior School. This collaboration brings together the youngest Change Makers in the spirit of giving back.

On Friday, May 12, a group of 10 enthusiastic Year 6 girls from PLC Junior School visited the residents of Uniting Bowden Brae for the first time. Their commitment to volunteering will continue as they dedicate an hour of their time every fortnight throughout the year.

Nerissa Davey, Deputy Head of PLC Junior School, expressed pride in the girls’ decision to volunteer at Bowden Brae. She stated “We’re very proud of them, and we’re hoping they’ll get as much out of this experience as the residents here. It’s really great for the girls to learn how much the aged have to offer and how much they can learn from them.”

This partnership marks an exciting opportunity to invest in the next generation of volunteers, as highlighted by Gail Yap, Uniting Volunteer Lead. Yap expressed enthusiasm, saying, “The brand-new partnership with PLC Junior School is an exciting opportunity to invest in the next generation of volunteers.”

National Volunteer Week, with this year’s theme being “The Change Makers,” couldn’t be more fitting for this collaboration between Uniting Bowden Brae and PLC Junior School. These young Change Makers will bring joy, companionship, and fresh perspectives to the residents, fostering meaningful connections and intergenerational learning.

As National Volunteer Week reminds us, volunteers are the backbone of our society, and their dedication and selflessness shape communities for the better. Uniting Bowden Brae and PLC Junior School exemplify the true spirit of volunteering, embodying “The Change Makers” theme and inspiring us all to make a difference.

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Hidden suffering: Tackling grief in seniors’ living communities

In every senior’s living community, a high proportion of residents will be experiencing grief in one form or another. How can operators help residents at this challenging stage of life?

It’s an uncomfortable reality that for many residents in senior living communities, grief is a part of life.

Whether it be the loss of a partner, moving out of the family home, or the realisation they are in the final stages of their life, complex emotions will often accompany the move into a seniors’ community. Living with an older cohort also comes with challenges – residents die, which will always have ripple effect in a community.

For providers, acknowledging this truth and helping residents manage their feelings can be a way to help them live more meaningful, purposeful, and, ultimately, more joyous lives – and healthier, happier residents are good for business.


Grief is the feeling we experience when we lose something significant, says former grief counsellor Peter Wilson, who is a resident of Brisbane’s Samford Grove retirement village.

“It might be the loss of a dream, the loss of a career, the loss of a house, the loss of a community, and, of course, a death,” Peter said.


Moving into a senior’s living community can cause grief, said Peter.

“I don’t think people really understand the grief you go through when you must sell up, leave your family home, come to somewhere you don’t know, and give away all those family connections. It’s a huge loss,” said Peter, who moved to Samford Grove two years ago.

Though he is content today, the move to a retirement community triggered feelings of loss for Peter, and he could see others around him were experiencing similar emotions.

“You’ve got to start all over again making new friends – it’s really, really tough.”

Peter, who retired five years ago and is 76, said older people are also often “disenfranchised”. “Older people aren’t respected like they used to be,” he said.

As they approach the end of their lives, older people also often look back and begin to wonder about the meaning of their life.

“So, there are a lot of issues that can cause real despair,” he said.

A committed Christian, Peter spent decades working as a counsellor of various types, including roles as a nurse, grief counsellor, in the funeral industry, a crisis support worker, and eventually retraining and working as a psychologist and psychotherapist.

Having purpose and dignity are what help older people cope, Peter said.

Are providers doing enough to support residents coping with these challenging emotions and experiences?


Five Good Friends is a Queensland-based home care provider that offers concierge services bringing activities, conversations, and education into seniors’ communities.

When Give Good Friends visited Samford Grove, and began talking to Peter, together they saw an opportunity to assist residents with discussion groups around life-changing experiences.

Peter said, “I started out in 1971, and I’ve got a PhD and academic work behind me, and I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs. I thought, well, this is crazy. It’s almost selfish because I’ve got this experience and this training and there are others out there who could benefit.

“Instead of sitting here twiddling my thumbs, doing nothing, I’d like to do something that’s of value.”

Initially the groups will be held at Samford Grove, but Peter hopes the sessions “plant a seed” and he could extend the sessions to other communities where Five Good Friends are helping.

The first discussion groups will be based on the topics of making new friends – what hinders us from reaching out to people, overcoming shyness, and so on – managing loss in life, how to start a new chapter in a new setting.


Simon Lockyer, co-founder and CEO of Five Good Friends, said moving into a seniors’ community is a major life change and can cause residents to experience a complex range of emotions – both negative and positive.

“The resident might have planned on the move, but they might also have had to move from living in the family home, they might have lost a partner, or they are moving into a community where they don’t know anyone, and for some residents the move is a signal that this is the last chapter,” said Simon.

“It’s a complete change of life,” he said.

Often when they are out talking to residents, Simon said they tell them that after their first two or three nights in the community, new residents will wake in the morning thinking, ‘What have I done?’

“But six months down the track, they’re like, ‘I wish I made this decision earlier’,” Simon said.

Acknowledging those feelings of loss and grief, and learning some strategies to cope with them, could help to make that transition easier for new residents.


Peter has one piece of advice for residents who might be suffering.

“Reach out for help. Most people don’t need professional help.

“I put it to you that 80% of people’s issues can be dealt with by a sensitive good friend – a family member or a friend – and tell your story.”

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Celebrating volunteers – the backbone of the retirement industry

Tens of thousands of people, of all ages, volunteer to contribute enormously in retirement villages and aged care homes.

The Change Makers is the theme for this year’s National Volunteer Week, 15 to 21st May, which celebrates the vital work of volunteers.

Volunteering is at the core of the care sector. Many businesses in the sector were created by volunteers. Staff time is shared amongst the clinical needs of residents, whereas a volunteer is there purely to spend quality time with residents. It’s not just the residents who reap the benefits of the volunteer experience, the volunteers themselves gain a deep sense of purpose and fulfilment from their role.

HammondCare has about 750 volunteers and it is looking for more people willing to give 1-2 hours a week for 12 months or longer in the community, in aged care homes or hospitals.

In November 2020, The Age Care Census 2020 stated there were 11,980 volunteers in residential aged care (a decline of 49% from 2016) and in retirement living, volunteers help with social activities, act as companions, and help with transportation.

Volunteering has been central to HammondCare’s Mission since the independent charity’s beginnings 90 years ago. It has launched Share Joy – Volunteer with Us campaign to find people keen to make a real difference in volunteering roles in NSW, the ACT and VIC.

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Sweet Moments cookbook released by Serenitas’ residents and staff

The favourite family recipes of residents in Serenitas’ over 50s land lease communities has been turned into a Mother’s Day cookbook for the second successive year.

 “The Mother’s Day cookbook was a huge success last year, celebrating the many wonderful home cooks within our communities and paying homage to the many women, past and present, who have made a significant and lasting impact in our lives,” said CEO Rob Nichols.

“Due to popular demand and the overwhelming positive feedback, we have created a new Mother’s Day cookbook, this time with a focus on sweets and treats, because it’s the right of every mum, grandma and great grandma to spoil loved ones.”

All the recipes in the Sweet Moments Cookbook embody meaningful moments and capture the love that is synonymous with our mothers’ powerful presence in our lives.

Robyn Gartrell, from National Lifestyle Villages’ Tuart Lakes resort in Baldivis, 46km south of Perth,  grew up living far out of town so popping down to the shops wasn’t an option. Her mum often had to make do with what was in the pantry and so Robyn’s Mystery Cake is created using a can of tomato soup.

“About ten years ago I got out all my old recipe cards, the yellow kind that we used to write recipes on and keep in a plastic box. I sat down for about two months and handwrote each of my recipes for all my three children and gave it to them all as gifts.

“My daughter told me it was the best gift she had ever received, and that means the world to me as her mother.”

With over 20 recipes from Serenitas homeowners and staff, the Mother’s Day Sweet Moments Cookbook features favourite go-to recipes that are perfect for when you need to quickly whip up a batch of biscuits or slice, bake a celebratory cake or decorate a flan, and everything in between.

For the Sweet Moments Cookbook, Click HERE.

Facility Manager

Don’t forget about Mum!

“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” – Cardinal Mermillod 

As we approach Mother’s Day next weekend (that’s the 14th  May), let’s take a moment to reflect on the importance of this special day for our residents. For many of them, it’s a chance to celebrate their moms and remember the love and joy they’ve brought our lives. 

As retirement village managers and staff, we have the opportunity to make this day extra special for our residents. From organizing a Mother’s Day brunch or lunch to hosting a craft session, there are many ways to encourage family participation and help our residents feel loved and valued. 

For those residents who may not have family nearby, we can still make the day special by organizing community events and providing opportunities for them to connect with loved ones through video calls or letters. And let’s not forget the power of simple gestures, like a heartfelt card or a small bouquet of flowers, to make our residents feel appreciated. 

Have some fun with Mother’s Day and celebrate the extraordinary women in our lives and our communities. Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mothers out there! 

Facility Manager Key things to help you everyday

Psychosocial Safety in the Workplace: A case for being pro-active

Over the past few years, the Work Health Safety (WHS) landscape has undergone several changes that affect the way we deal with psychosocial safety in the workplace.

As defined by SafeWork Australia, a psychosocial hazard is anything that could cause psychological harm. In June 2022, SafeWork Australia published a set of changes to the national WHS Act (2011), including clearer definitions of psychosocial hazards and risks and clarification of the control measures that employers must put in place to reduce risk.

The legislative change led to the publication of a Model Code of Practice: Managing Psychosocial Hazards in the Workplace, which has been adopted in most states. It provides a higher level of clarity on the prevention of psychological harm for both employers and regulators.

While some states have not yet adopted the Model Code of Practice or equivalent provisions, it is essential to note that a court may refer to the Model Act, Regulations, and Codes of Practice in reviewing a case.

In light of these changes, DCM Institute’s partner Jo Marshall of Culturise suggests that employers should evaluate their current policies, procedures, and behavioural guides to determine whether any psychosocial risks are present.

“SafeWork Australia and the various State Regulating bodies have a range of educational information and templates to help you carry out a Psychosocial Risk Assessment,” Jo said.

“Issues dealt with previously under the Anti-harassment, Bullying and Discrimination laws are now also addressed clearly in the Codes of Practice and Regulations under WHS”.

Employers should focus on providing training and development to staff to ensure they are self-aware of their own mental health as a proactive measure to address the changes in the WHS Act. This includes creating awareness about psychosocial hazards and risks and training staff to recognize signs of psychological harm. It is also essential to establish a reporting system for employees to report any incidents of psychological harm.

In the month of May, DCM Institute will be partnering with Culturise to provide a master class on mental health. This master class, referred to as “Hand Me the Oxygen Mask” is designed to help participants in DCM Institute’s professional development program improve their ability to manage their own mental health so that they can perform at a high performance with managing their team, and delivering improved outcomes for their residents.

“Every single thing about achieving a psychosocially safe workplace has a direct impact on creating a healthier culture.  A healthier culture means a more successful business.  Taking time out to focus on how psychologically safe your workplace is a worthwhile investment,” Jo concluded.

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Retirement living operators’ confidence double the three-year average

The latest ANZ/Property Council Survey states the nation’s retirement living sector has strong confidence around capital value growth and construction activity levels over the next 12 months.

Operators are more confident about 12-month construction activity levels than the residential, office, industrial, retail and hotel sectors.

Confidence levels in capital growth (22.9 points) are almost double the three-year average since COVID-19 hit Australia’s shores in March 2020 (12.0). Construction activity sentiment currently sits at 46.3 points, up 10.6 points in the same period.

Retirement Living Council Executive Director Daniel Gannon warned operators state government reform processes could hurt the positivity.

“Industry confidence around Australia has improved over the past 12 months, but various state legislative reviews loom large on the horizon,” Daniel said.

As The Weekly SOURCE stated in an Opinion Article “Act or face the Consequences” last Tuesday, the reviews to the Retirement Village Acts in QLD, SA, VIC and WA focus on changes to Exit Entitlements.

 “This comes at a precarious time given the country is facing challenges around housing supply, affordability, cost and supply chain constraints. If these reforms make it harder for operators to build and operate age-friendly communities, it could place a handbrake on supply and dampen confidence at the worst possible time,” Daniel said.

“Importantly, our industry offers a trifecta of opportunity – superior housing outcomes for senior Australians, more housing supply, while delivering significant efficiencies for State, Territory and Federal Governments.

“However, investment conditions and confidence can be strengthened or eroded by legislative frameworks around the country.”

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Forging strong ties between the village and the wider community

Sue Dundas, Village Manager of the Year in 2018, has a dynamic team at Blue Care’s Carlyle Gardens in Townsville, QLD.

Creating strong ties for her residents with the wider community on the state’s north-eastern coast is vital.

The Senior Village Manager, who has been with UnitingCare for five-and-half years, literally has the Townsville Mayor and Townsville Bulletin editor’s direct numbers.

She has also been instrumental in connecting residents to local charities like Kate’s Campaign for Change and Hear and Say, and residents to Annandale State School and Townsville City Council on the 3B’s campaign (Birds, Bees, Butterflies) to plant trees encouraging the growth of those animals.

See also works closely with the residents to organise the monthly Arts & Craft Market, which is open to the public and has a strong following in Townsville.

“We have a lot of residents here, and many diverse and eclectic personalities, and every single person makes a difference here in some way, whether they’re 90 or 60. There’s a difference made by every team member and every resident,” said Sue.

“When you have a dynamic team, the job really isn’t a job. And when you have a client-base, my whole life I have worked in client-focused industries, and when your client-base care about you as much as you care about them, that’s an added bonus. As I say to the residents, ‘I don’t live here, but I call you MY residents’.”

One the highlights, for Sue, is the experience of when people first become residents, particularly those who are unsure.

“Then seeing them six months after they’ve been here saying it is the best decision they’ve made in their life.”

What makes a successful retirement village manager?

“If you’ve got people skills, you are already 80% there. You can learn the financial and operational side of things, but if you understand people, the job is wonderful,” she said.

“Naturally in this environment, people go. This is the last port of call in life for many people who come here. When you’ve got people skills, you’ve got a heart. So, when we lose a resident, it can make it very challenging.”

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The Uniting NSW.ACT chef in Food Service’s Chef of The Year final

Luke Stephens, Executive Chef for four of Uniting NSW.ACT’s facilities from Farmborough Heights to Gerringong on the NSW South Coast, has competed in the $10,000 Foodservice Australia Chef of the Year competition in Melbourne.

It is the time chefs for the ageing sector have been among the 32 finalists for the competition, which finished on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old started working at Uniting NSW.ACT eight months ago and hails from Albury/Wodonga on the NSW/VIC border. He owned his first restaurant at aged 20 and has worked in the industry ever since.

Luke changes the menu for the residents every three weeks.

“All the food is local. We get our meat from J D Meats Gerringong and Albion Park Village Meats.

“The best part is sitting down with the residents and see them enjoy the food.

“I have nothing to lose in the final and I am just going to enjoy every minute.”

Tom Hitchcock, Head Chef, at The Spirit House Restaurant, Yandina, on QLD’s Sunshine Coast was judged Foodservice Australia Chef of the Year.