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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.

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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.

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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!

https://www.thedcminstitute.com.au/

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!

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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.

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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.

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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
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  • 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.

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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.  

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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.  

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Things to watch

WORLD ELDER ABUSE AWARENESS DAY (WEAAD) 15th JUNE

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. 

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Key things to help you everyday Things to watch

Carers in your village: understanding, support and a policy

While many of our residents move to a village to continue living a full and independent life, their needs and capacity often change as they get older.

For some, the changes occur slowly, and for others, their health and wellbeing deteriorate more rapidly.

Regardless of when they happen, these changes are usually unplanned and result in the need for initial support until formal assistance or services are established. 

Delays in accessing services, reluctance to address needs and the long wait times for Home Care Packages, all contribute to the increasing reliance on informal carers.

Carers and complexities

In our communities, we see the benefits of the vital role that carers play in the lives of our residents, but we also see (and may need to manage) the complexities when the carer is a spouse, family member, friend or even another resident!

We see couples where one person cares for their spouse, and then the carer becomes exhausted or unwell.

Residents become reliant and often a burden on good-hearted neighbours or residents, with the best intent, take up the role of carer for a neighbour and then withdraw their support as they are unable to manage.

Then we have family members who become full-time carers and want to be a live-in carer or, alternately, those who don’t see the need for support or care and are happy to let the Village Manager pick up and do what they can for the resident.

Yes, as Village Professionals, we see it all, and it can be overwhelming for us too.

So, what can we do?

The best strategy is to have some established policies or guides that your Management Team endorses.

Develop a policy for carers to live in the village should the need arise considering:

  • Approval on a case-by-case basis
  • Evidence of medical / GP support
  • Rights of residency, voting, parking
  • The obligation of the carer to abide by the Village Rules
  • Residency ceases upon vacation of resident and consider the termination obligations of the contract and legislation
  • Documented approval rather than a contract addendum

You can also refer to agencies who specialise in carer support:

Carers Australia – https://www.carersaustralia.com.au

Promote services available for older people and their carers:

MyAgedCare – https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/caring-someone

Act now; don’t wait

It is always best to develop a policy when you are not under time pressure or you already ‘have a situation’, when raising new policy guidelines can be misconstrued to being in response to one case.

Preparation of a simple document to start the discussion with your Management Team and possible the Residents Committee is a great first step.

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Key things to help you everyday Latest industry developments Things to watch

Welcome to Year Three for the DCMI Village Management Professional Development Program

Thank you for supporting us!

What a huge achievement by the DCM Institute team to be moving into our third year with consistent and growing participation in the Village Management Professional Development program.

We are all very proud – and appreciative – especially with the significant impact of COVID on DCMI participants and the need to restructure the program to deliver workshop days online.

We had to ensure you continued to receive great value, professional development and new opportunities to feel connected to the wider industry.

Sally boosts participant support

Six months ago, we introduced a participant care service to our program to ensure that participants continue to be well supported.

Sally Middleton joined our team to fulfil this role and she has conducted over 250 individual participant check-ins to support our participants achieve their learning goals.

Sally has also onboarded or provided portal refresher sessions to over 140 participants, and supported over 20% of participants to find the information they are looking for either in our online portal or on industry-specific websites. 

Jacqui boosts sales and leadership

Whilst COVID put a temporary hold on the face-to-face workshop days, the DCMI team continued to innovate. We engaged Jacqui Perkins to lead Retirement Village specific Sales & Leadership interactive masterclasses. 

Jacqui brings fresh concepts – always important with sales. The feedback on these masterclass sessions has been great and we have seen a number of sales consultants join the program to access these masterclasses and the valuable information available on the online Knowledge Centre portal.  

Face to face networking is back

However, what we are most excited about is we are heading back to Face-to-Face activities! Village network meetings have already been held in SA, NSW, Vic and soon to be ACT, WA, QLD & TAS.

Even better, we return to Face-to-Face workshop days in June. 

The DCMI team will return to the capital cities to conduct these valuable Professional Development workshop days. We are so looking forward to getting back to these sessions and the added value of the shared learning we get to share together. 

Please join us; please invest in yourself

If you are interested in joining the VMPD program, please register here.

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Latest industry developments

Stockland confirms Four Corners is behind us: retirement village resale number best since 2017: 190 homes/3 months​

It would appear that the shadow of the June 2017 Four Corners retirement village exposé is finally behind us, with Stockland announcing they delivered 190 resales in the three months January to March.

This is 10% up on the same quarter last year and their best Quarter result since June 2017 when Four Corners did its damning and largely erroneous exposé on villages.

Stockland’s result is even better given they but made even better by the fact that this year it has four big villages less in its portfolio, having sold them to Derek McMillan’s Centennial Living in December last year.

Family home prices to surge

More good news for village sales, Stockland points out that COVID has driven 255,000 Australians to return home since March last year, driving demand for new housing, backed by stable, low interest rates.

See the consistency of new Stockland enquiries below.

Stockland further charts the decline in new builds in recent years and the lag that is coming in 2022 to 2025. Demand will be for 125,000 new homes a year while supply will be just 80,000 homes.

The pressure on existing family home prices will be great, generating faster sales to join a village.

The high level of demand for detached homes, represented by the light blue line in the chart above, while supply is the dark line and undersupply by units the dark bar.

Stockland land lease first month sales: 25 homes

At the same time, Stockland’s confidence in land lease communities is rewarded by achieving 25 home sales in one month in its first LLC development. See next story.