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Let’s Talk About Australia Day

We received an enquiry during the week from a colleague in the sector to see what our views were on continued to do something on Australia Day in retirement villages.

It was a conversation they were struggling with given the public debate around changing the date for our national day.

It is a debate that needs to be had, respectfully.

Respectfully means that in our role as Village Professionals if our residents want to celebrate Australia Day, then it should be encouraged.

We have written in our newsletters and openly discussed at our networking days the important role social engagement plays in keeping residents healthy and active. Australia Day is a day on a Village’s Activity Calendar that many residents continue to look forward to, with many having deeply rooted traditions.

These are traditions of residents coming together and being social in community centres. Of barbeques and long lunches. Of a happy hour that lasts for hours.

We must always remember that we have the privilege of working in someone’s home. That is an important word – home. They say home is where the heart is. In a retirement village, a healthy beating heart is the social environment we foster and encourage.

So long as our residents do not do anything to disrupt the quiet enjoyment of others – then why shouldn’t they be encouraged to continue their traditions. Even if the debate happens within our communities, keeping it respectful won’t disrupt this beating heart.

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Raising Awareness: The Risks with Lithium-ion Battery Failure

It was heartbreaking to read about the fire in an Adelaide retirement village last week where an 83-year old man was found dead and a woman, 81, taken to hospital.

Late, reports indicated the likely cause of the fire was a mobility scooter battery left charging overnight.

Mobility scooters are a part of retirement villages all over the country. Many of them are plugged in right now, charging, so that they are ready to assist their owner move about the community.

A common feature of these mobility scooters is their light-weight lithium-ion battery. Lithium-ion batteries are widely used since they can store a large amount of energy in a relatively small area. They are also susceptible to causing events like the one seen in Adeliade the other week with state fire departments reporting more than 450 fires caused by lithium-ion batteries in the past 18 months.

What causes lithium-ion batteries to fail?

Overheating is one of the main causes of lithium-ion battery failures, although physical damage to the battery can also lead to problems.

Excessive heat — for example from using a faulty charger and overcharging the battery, or due to a short circuit — can damage the battery cell internally and cause it to fail.

The major issue with lithium-ion batteries overheating is a phenomenon known as thermal runaway.

In this process, the excessive heat promotes the chemical reaction that makes the battery work, thus creating even more heat and ever more chemical reactions in a disastrous spiral. Physical damage to lithium-ion battery cells can allow the electrolyte inside to leak, which is another potential hazard risk.

How can people mitigate the problems with lithium-ion batteries?

Correct usage and storage of lithium-ion batteries is extremely important.

Batteries should not be exposed to high external temperatures, for example from being left in direct sunlight for long periods of time.

Overcharging is another fundamental issue as this can create excessive heat inside the battery cell.

Therefore, it is important to always use a reputable brand-name charger, rather than a cheap generic version that may be available online.

Good quality chargers, designed specifically for the battery you are using, control the amount of charge going into the cell and will cut off when it is fully charged to ensure the system does not over-heat.

Be very wary if a lithium-ion battery sustains any physical damage, such as being dropped or pierced by an object, as this can lead to leakage and potential problems.

In workplace settings, safe battery storage can be crucial so that in the event of unwanted failure, the resulting fire can be more easily contained and controlled and does not spread – which can quickly cause catastrophic consequences.

It is not advisable to purchase lithium-ion batteries second-hand, or online from unknown and potentially unregulated vendors.

What can we do?

Bring awareness. Take a commonsense approach and educate residents on the risks. There are a range of useful fact sheets and links contained in this article which can be shared easily with staff and residents.

For further information

For those interested in further reading on this subject, the ACCC released a report in October 2023 titled ‘Lithium-ion batteries and consumer product safety’.

Additional information about lithium-ion battery safety can be found by contacting your state fire department. 

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Networking: A Contact Sport

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” – Bill Nye

In a world where running a retirement village is like a never-ending jigsaw puzzle, we need all the support we can get. Saying this makes you start to appreciate the collegiate nature of being a Village Professional.

How then do you get the most out of networking opportunities, such as DCM Institutes upcoming Professional Development Day

Through the knowledge sharing these days present you with.

Gone are the days where successful networking was seen as how many business cards you could hand out, compared to how many you collect. (Do people even use business cards anymore?)

Networking days are primarily about relationship building, where both parties come away stronger from the connection and information sharing the event has provided them with.  An opportunity to feed off the energy of being in a room with someone, and not talking to a monitor. To learn from peers through conversations or table discussions, feeding your passion for your growth as a Village Professional.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” African Proverb.

Networking and knowledge sharing aren’t just buzzwords; they’re the unsung heroes in our search for excellence.  It’s about building a group of industry peers who’ve got your back and challenge you to expand your mind. To open you up to perspectives and opportunities you’d never previously considered.

Knowledge sharing is another avenue in fostering growth.  Collaborating with colleagues provides a platform to exchange ideas, challenges, and solutions. By sharing successes and learning from others’ experiences, you can gain practical insights. This collective wisdom creates a supportive community that thrives on the principles of mutual growth and development. 

“Your Network is Your Net Worth”

Try not to go into networking opportunities thinking you don’t have anything to contribute. Every person has experienced a unique situation they have had to solve or a common issue they have had to look at from a different perspective. Opening a person up to you, and you up to them comes from simply asking questions.

Next time you walk into a room with peers, join a group and keep the conversation flowing. You will quickly learn that as peers, we are all in this together, and there’s no better way to learn than with friends who’ve got your back.

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Crafting a Comprehensive Retirement Village Budget

A Manager’s Guide

Each year, we get back from leave and head straight into one of the most intense periods of work in our calendar – the Village Budget.

Preparing a considered budget is crucial to ensure we are in a position to maintain the services and amenities residents enjoy and do so in a way they can afford. Developing a retirement village budget requires careful consideration, which is why we’ve put together some key steps and to guide you in preparing your next Retirement Village Budget:

Assess Current Financial Position
  • Review existing financial records and assess the village’s current financial position.
  • Identify revenue sources, including resident levies, government subsidies, and any additional income streams such as hiring of communal areas or rent received from service providers.
Understand operating costs
  • Break down operational costs, such as staff salaries, maintenance, utilities, and insurance.
  • Consider future expenses, such as necessary repairs and maintenance to grounds, gardens or amenities.
plan for social activities
  • Allocate funds for recreational and social activities to enhance residents’ quality of life.
  • Consider diverse interests and preferences to create a well-rounded and engaging community.
Do you need to account for care and support?

As residents age, so do their care needs. It is not uncommon for care and support to creep into your Village Budget over time. If this is the case, this process is a great way to confirm that you are keeping up with residents needs through wellness programs, and partnerships with healthcare providers.

engage residents in the process
  • We cannot stress enough the importance of involving residents in the budgeting process.
  • Gather feedback and insights from the community to understand their priorities and concerns.
explore funding opportunities
  • Investigate potential funding opportunities, grants, or partnerships with local organisations.
  • Adding additional income sources into the Budget can help strengthen the financial position of the retirement village and take pressure off residents.
implement sustainable practices
  • Integrate sustainable practices to reduce operating costs and minimize the environmental impact.
  • Explore energy-efficient solutions and environmentally friendly initiatives.
review and adjust
  • Establish a routine for reviewing the budget as costs become known during the financial year. This will allow you to identify areas for improvement or adjustment.
  • Regular assessments ensure the budget remains adaptable to changing circumstances.
invest in financial education

Invest in our own financial education, as well as the education of residents on the mechanics of a Village Budget. This will aid the approval and consultation process and ensure complete transparency in the process you work through each year, as well as the costs associated with operating their community.

Above all else, preparing a Village Budget takes time. Starting the process sooner gives you the time required to deliver on these tips, and bring your residents along for the journey.

Village Budgets will be a major topic of discussion at DCM Institute’s upcoming Professional Development Day series next month.

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How a cheap fix saved thousands for retirement village residents

Sydney’s Water’s WaterFix Commercial program has helped the residents in the village in North Turramurra, 20km northwest of Sydney’s CBD, which is managed by Vision Lifestyle Projects.

Huon Park manager Sue McKindlay noticed a spike in water usage and requested an inspection from the WaterFix Commercial team who discovered a sub metre connected to a hot water heater was leaking at least 10 litres of water per day.

Upon further inspection by Sydney Water, the village’s water usage was 266 litres per resident per day – significantly higher than the recommended benchmark of 200 litres.

Sue said the village saw a “huge reduction” in water usage six months after Sydney Water installed a new online monitoring system to better access real time water usage data.

“A simple measure we’ve taken on board is reducing the frequency of irrigation around our gardens,” she said.

“It’s been a very valuable lesson for us in how to be mindful of our water usage and look at it in a different way.”

Huon Park retirement village is one of 28 businesses across NSW which joined Sydney’s Water’s WaterFix Commercial program in the last two years.

The initiative has saved customers more than $750,000 in total usage charges and 290 million litres of water – the equivalent to around 116 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Source: The Weekly Source

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Every New Year is Different

Did you know there are more than 25 completely different New Year’s Days around the world?

With all the annual hype put into our own routine of welcoming in the new year on 1 January, it can be easy to forget that a number of different cultures and religions have New Year’s on a different date. 

While the new year has already commenced for those following the Gregorian calendar, the most widely used calendar in the world, the Chinese New Year for instance, has yet to begin. Saturday 10 February marks the first day of the Year of the Dragon, one of 12 Chinese zodiac signs that rotate every year.

With our communities becoming more multi-cultural, recognising the various milestones from around the world provides us with a chance to share different traditions and customs with our residents – and have some fun along the way!

Talk with your residents about what other New Year events they might enjoy celebrating and include them on your Activity Calendar.

Here are just some of the New Year days recognised around the world.
Name of the New YearCountry or CountriesDate in 2024
Gregorian New YearInternationalJanuary 1
Chinese New YearChina and various countriesJanuary 25
Islamic New Year (Hijri)Islamic countriesAugust 19
Rosh HashanahJewish communities worldwideSeptember 27
Diwali (Hindu New Year)India and other countriesOctober 23
SongkranThailandApril 13-15
NowruzIran and Central AsiaMarch 20
Chol Chnam ThmayCambodiaApril 14-16
NyepiBali, IndonesiaMarch 25
MatarikiMaori (New Zealand)June 24
LosarTibet, Nepal, BhutanFebruary 24
Tet (Vietnamese New Year)VietnamFebruary 5
SeollalSouth KoreaJanuary 22-24
Pohela BoishakhBangladeshApril 14
Aluth AvuruddaSri LankaApril 14
Ethiopian New YearEthiopiaSeptember 11
OshogatsuJapanJanuary 1-3
SamhainCeltic and NeopaganOctober 31
PuthanduTamil Nadu, IndiaApril 14
Gudi PadwaMaharashtra, IndiaApril 2
Pagan New Year (Wheel of the Year)NeopaganVarious (e.g., December 21)
Islamic New Year (Saka)IndiaMarch 21
MuharramVarious Islamic countriesAugust 9
Cheti ChandSindhi communityMarch 23
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Changing of the guard

at Catholic Healthcare’s St Hedwig Retirement Village 

It was an emotional moment when Kathy Eberl announced her retirement as Village Manager for St Hedwig Retirement Village in Blacktown, 34km west of Sydney’s CBD, after more than 30 years diligent service.

Kathy was CEO of St Hedwig Village when Catholic Healthcare took it over in February 2020. She was instrumental in the doubling of the size of the site in 2000. It is now undergoing a complete redevelopment of the village with 72 contemporary, one-, two- and three-bedroom self-care apartments, along with plans for a new aged care residence.

St Hedwig was established 36 years ago by Sydney’s two German-speaking Catholic communities St Raphael in Blacktown, and St Christophorus in Croydon, 9km west of Sydney’s CBD. St Hedwig was orginally predominantly for German-speaking people.

Kathy’s departure sees Jenny Roberts (pictured left) became St Hedwig Village’s new Village Manager.

Jenny joined as Village Manager from RSL Lifecare last September.

She is most excited about opening the brand new state-of-the-art village and welcoming both current residents and new residents.

Opening a new village and having a hand in shaping the culture of a community is a fabulous opportunity for a village manager and Jenny looks forward to creating a thriving community where people can be themselves, and live independently but with piece of mind knowing that she is there to support them with home and community services and should their needs change, our onsite aged care facility.


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A sense of community won’t happen by itself

I wanted to discuss what I feel is a significant driver for people joining a retirement village – the ‘sense of community.’

Consider this, are your residents able to find companionship and shared experiences with like-minded individuals? Would you describe your village as a supportive environment that goes beyond bricks and mortar?

This sense of community doesn’t happen organically; it requires intentional investment to thrive and can diminish if neglected. And I don’t just mean financial investment.

January is the opportune time to reflect on the upcoming year and consider ways to keep this sense of community alive, or give it a good kick start!

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you undertaking a regular walk around the village?
  • Do you host regular Village Manager morning/afternoon tea?
  • Do you need a small budget to make contributions to kickstart events?
  • How active is your social committee? Is there anything you can do to help?
  • Does the village have an objective or common cause it can rally behind? These can be internal projects like rejuvenating a Community Garden, or external activities such as raising money for the local surf lifesaving club.
  • Do you have a resident buddy system to accompany a new resident or reserved resident to activities within the village?
  • Do you provide an opportunity for all residents to have a say in the items that are important to their lifestyle i.e. survey, informal meetings, suggestion box, feedback forms?
  • When was the last time you checked in on ‘that’ resident? You know, the person you’ve been meaning to reach out to for some time now.

While we can’t be everything to everyone and we aren’t the Social Directors of a Cruise Ship, there are still things we can do. Ask yourself this, of the list above, what three things could you prioritise right now to achieve in 2024?

Let us know what you choose. We’d love to hear about your progress over the course of the year.

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New Year’s Resolutions: Shaping Exceptional Leaders

Can New Year’s resolutions develop your leadership skills in 2024?

As we return to work and embark on a new year, it is not uncommon to hear or be asked by a colleague: “So, do you have any New Year’s resolutions?”

For many, the start of the year is about setting up goals for the year ahead. Both personal, and professional.

The power of resolutions is through their ability to propel us towards success. Whether you resolve to get to the gym more, or spend more time with your residents, success and your ability to achieve these resolutions is determined by leadership traits – a number of which we explored during 2023’s Village Summit event across the country.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Think about it, a resolution is a goal. Achieving that goal takes having a vision of why the goal is important – a purpose to motivate you. It takes planning and setting smaller milestones along the way.

Imagine your resolutions as destinations on a map. Like most journeys on a map, getting from A to B is not linear – and neither will be achieving your goals for the year ahead.

“Making a New Year’s Resolution is one thing. Remaining resolute and seeing them through is quite another.” – Alex Morritt

To ensure the resolutions don’t become mere tokens of good intent, it’s crucial to incorporate moments of reflection and accountability throughout the year. These check-ins act as a compass, guiding us back to our purpose and helping us stay focused on the larger mission.

Without regular check-ins, we risk veering off course, losing sight of the progress made and the milestones yet to be achieved.

Reflective moments provide an opportunity to celebrate successes, learn from challenges, and adjust our course if needed. It’s in these moments that true leadership skills can be developed. Adaptability, resilience and importantly, accountability of self.

Accountability transforms lofty ideas into tangible achievements.

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.” – Peter Drucker

All the traits you demonstrate in realising your resolutions or goals are the building blocks of exceptional leadership.

As you embark on this year’s resolution journey, remember that the true magic happens not just in setting the goals but in the intentional steps we take to achieve them.

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Work. Live. Learn.

A balancing act

As each year seems busier than the last, now is the time to make a conscious decision around how we want 2024 to look.

It is a great time to ask ourselves as professionals and leaders, how we can maintain that balance between workplace responsibilities, our personal well-being, and ongoing professional development.

Our ability to balance these three areas comes from the habits we develop and the routines we create.  

To help get you started, we have put together some tips to help you achieve this balance.

Effective Time Management

This might seem like a bit of a no-brainer. But ask yourself, are you really managing your time effectively? It is the cornerstone of balancing competition priorities. 

Employing techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix to distinguish urgent from important. Create daily schedules delineating time blocks for managerial duties, personal commitments, and dedicated professional development. Harnessing productivity tools and setting realistic goals helps to keeps the day from running away from us.

Prioritising Self-Care

Self-care is essential to your effectiveness. Take time to be physically active through sports and hobbies. Practice mindfulness to manage stress and foster a healthier mindset.

Recognising your own personal needs and investing time in self-renewal will improve your productivity and resilience in the long run. There is an old saying that you can’t give from an empty cup, prioritise filling up your cup (not just your glass after a long day).

Continuous Professional Development

Permitting yourself time for your own professional development is indispensable.

Work time into your daily routine to reading industry-related literature, completing a topic in the Knowledge Centre, or participate in workshops.

Embrace learning is as much a mindset as it is an activity that takes time. The benefit is it will keep you across sector trends; keep your skills relevant to meet the ever changing needs of our customer, and deliver on the overall goals of the business in which we work; and set you up to take any career opportunities that present themselves.

Create Supportive Environments

Workplace culture will impact your ability to achieve a true balance.

Lead from the front with your direct reports. Encourage and support your own team with their time management, self-care and continuous professional development balance.

Doing so puts you in a position to determine their success, and your own.