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Providing support when residents face the big decisions in life

“We don’t know, what we don’t know.”

This perfectly sums up the way our residents might feel when trying to tackle the significant financial and life decisions that come later in life.

Here are some typical questions a resident might ask:

  • Where can I get a Seniors Card?
  • Can I access taxi vouchers?
  • Is there a fitness class for older people nearby?
  • Who do I contact for government concessions?
  • What do I need to do to plan my will?
  • What is MyAgedCare and what do they do?

Having the answer to all these questions is almost impossible.

But we can give our residents access to information that is accurate and appropriate.

This gives them the power to make the right decisions, at the right time for themselves.

Making this information accessible, in a format that can be easily understood, is key.

Here are some ideas:

  • You might have a folder which has print outs or fact sheets about services
  • A poster with some key websites or agencies dedicated to older people
  • A village iPad which has links saved for easy access
  • Guest speakers giving presentations or one on one appointments
  • Newsletter articles on specific topics
  • Seniors card info showing special offers and discounts

Here are some useful websites you can use as a starting point:

As we’ve mentioned before, you’re not expected to have the answer to every question.

Letting our residents know where they can find the information to make their decisions is the best way to achieve a positive outcome.

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Key things to help you everyday Latest industry developments Reporting Results What the research tells us

Retirement villages have a perception problem, and this means first impressions count

Our sister company DCM Research has just completed the DCM Prospect Profile survey of 2,207 people aged 60+, and we’ve had a sneak peak at the results.

What we’re seeing is a serious retirement village perception problem.

Look at the figure above.

Just 14% of respondents perceive retirement villages to be an affordable option, and over half (51%) think exactly the opposite.

On top of this, 42% of respondents think they’re small, with little storage space.

Not great conversation starters.

Digging a little deeper

DCM’s research partner, Australian Online Research (AOR), wanted to know why people felt this way, so they compared the perceptions of non-residents to people who had just moved in to a Village.

And the difference couldn’t be starker:

More often than not, many of the Potentials had been to a village many years ago and had a dim memory, or simply had a rough opinion that has over time become a firm opinion.

AOR found visiting one or more villages turned most people around.

The hard part is getting them to the village.

First impressions are so important

I’ve often said in the retirement living industry it’s the one-percenters that count.

Retirees are increasingly using digital platforms and your website may be one of the first points of interaction with potential residents.

So, it pays to look at your website with a fresh pair of eyes.

Rather than ticking off the list of all the information we as operators feel like we need on our websites, consider “how you build connection” as part of the impression.

Two easy solutions:

  1. Invest in photography and video that highlight the personality of the village and the people. Ensure it has an element of authenticity, that represents what they will find. Do not try to be all things to all people. 
     
  2. Present the village homes as real homes, that people can see themselves living in. Show the village as an optimistic, vibrant place where real people enjoy living. Consider virtual tours with real residents and staff showcasing the style of living and how it caters for individual taste. 

While these strategies are not particularly ground-breaking, they require investment and creativity.

But in my experience, the return on investment is great.

And in these uncertain times focusing on foundational activities such as these will be vital.

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

People – the most important investment a retirement village will make!

At LASA’s National Integrated Seniors Housing conference, I had an opportunity to conduct a poll about the topics keeping village professionals up at night.

For over 50%, it was the best way to provide support for their residents.

This discussion led me to consider two things:

  • Are we expecting too much from Village Professionals?
  • What can be done to support them in their roles?

A Village Professional is expected to be a property manager, financial analyst, social worker, meditator, allied health advisor, lifestyle coordinator, social secretary, compliance manager, administrator, communications specialist, marketer, sales consultant and often hospitality manager of food and linen services.

More often than not those that succeed as great village managers are problem solvers, people that like people, doers, charmers, givers, forgivers, ideas people and those that have strong tenacity, integrity and a huge sense of humour!

But there’s also a troubling amount of churn in the sector today, whether this is through burn out, lack of support or finding the sector is just not for them.

So, what can leaders in the sector do to support these very important professionals?

Right systems, right knowledge, right support

Nadine White (pictured right), General Manager Retirement Villages and Sales at WA sector leader Bethanie, is using the DCM Institute Professional Development Program as a content platform.

To do this, Nadine has developed a One Time One Voice training calendar.

This calendar schedules dedicated time for team meetings, combined sales and operations meetings, Policy and Procedure discussions, and importantly ongoing professional development.

This calendar schedules dedicated time for team meetings, combined sales and operations meetings, Policy and Procedure discussions, and importantly ongoing professional development.

The Bethanie team uses the DCMI Knowledge Centre as the basis for their professional development.  Nadine schedules a topic each month for the team to complete individually through the DCMI online portal.

This topic then forms the basis for the team’s professional development discussion, which assists to cement the learning and drive continuous improvement in the organisation.  

Personally, I believe this kind of initiative and commitment will drive some very important outcomes for Bethanie and the sector as a whole:

  • Increase knowledge of those serving residents at the front line
  • Continue to develop trusted relationships with residents
  • Increase retention of those within the sector
  • Drive opportunity for individual and workforce growth
  • Establish high standards amongst operators and their teams
  • Establish village professional roles as desirable careers
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Save the date – reminder!

Do not forget to register for your local Village Network meeting later this month.

It is a great opportunity to discuss important topics such as new legislation, consumer trends, workforce challenges, service offerings, and the change and evolution of the sector.

Together with your peers join the October network meetings by clicking here.

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DCMI and Alison Abel talk village sales

Alison is the Sales Director of Marketability, a 20-year veteran marketing and sales consultancy in the village sector.

Alison explains she has 25 touch points in each of her customer’s journeys, including five before they first meet. Alison has 450 known prospects that she knows personally where they are on their journey. She shares how she maintains engagement from deposit to settlement and beyond.

It’s great stuff and reminds us all that the basics and hard work deliver results.

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Mental health and your team – it’s a continuum, not a situation

We all have to be on our guard about mental health.

This month our DCMI webinar series finished with our speaker Samantha Young from Human Psychology, talking about supporting your team in crisis.

Sam tells us a recent survey, prior to the pandemic, found 20% of workers were experiencing a mental health challenge.  However, when their leaders were surveyed they were unaware of this. 

2020 has seen our sector challenged in many very different ways – whether it was the fires of the New Year, the pre-winter floods or the all-encompassing COVID-19 pandemic.

We all have been stretched out of our comfort zones in many cases on many occasions. This includes our teams. But there may be a crisis a team member is dealing with that we have not yet become aware of.

Another great insight Sam shared: “Mental health is a continuum with mental illness at one end and mental wellbeing at the other. Individuals can go back and forth on this continuum depending on the many influences in our life and not only the perceived crisis that we experience as a community.” 

Leadership, can be a lonely, isolating and stressful place. This is particularly true for village professionals who are constantly people facing, on call – some 24/7, sometimes caught in the middle, the first responder to emergency, the problem solver and often the person who has to deal with a large workload for long periods. 

So, there is no surprise that BURNOUT is common amongst village professionals.

Sam shared some great tips for reducing the existence of BURNOUT:

  • Good foundations – Diet, Exercise and Sleep
  • Reframing our thinking patterns to focus on the FACT and not the STORY we might be telling ourselves
  • Scheduling of regular downtime – leave, breaks, think time and social time
  • Reducing habits that may inhibit progress – excessive email and phone checking
  • Identify what indicators present themselves when beginning to feel yourself spiralling
  • Building a tool kit of responses in the event you feel a change in your mental health, such as asking for help, tactical breathing and priority identifying.

Thanks Sam!

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“The borders are opening, the borders are opening”: are you prepared?

The reopening of Australia will be really great news when it actually happens, but for us in Village Land there will be some unexpected challenges.

The Prime Minister wants all restrictions lifted by Christmas (and Christmas Eve is just three months from today!). We expect many residents will want to travel and many friends and families will want to visit.

We do know that we will have to be on our guard, so it is best to be thinking about it now.

For instance, COVID is likely to still be lurking, with ongoing low infections regarded as an acceptable risk for letting the country get up and going again.

Here are some things we brainstormed that we all should be thinking – and preparing for.

  1. Will you see an increase in interstate visitors in the village? 
    • Will they be allowed to stay in the village?
    • How will your existing residents react to more visitors?
    • How will your staff feel with the likely increase in visitors in and around the village?
       
  2. Will the extra visitors impact your current screening and contact tracing activities?
     
  3. Will your staff be wanting annual leave now they are able to have a holiday or visit family?
     
  4. How will you deal with the difference of opinion between residents?
    • Some may be OK with interstate visitors filling the village; some may not be OK with this?
    • Do you need to consider any new processes?
       
  5. What about the extra caravans?
    • They are likely to be parked around the village for more regular loading and unloading
    • Are you likely to have more caravans new to the village if residents who used to travel overseas are now considering more local travel plans?
       
  6. Are residents likely to want to become part of the house swap community and if so, do you have a policy to deal with that?
     
  7. What if a visitor staying in the village is found to be positive?
    • What is your organisation’s response and business continuity plan for this?
    • Will you allow them to remain in the village or will you rehouse them?
    • What extra resources/approvals might you require?
       
  8. Are you likely to have residents asking you for advice as to whether or not they should travel? 
    • What will be your organisation’s response?
    • Could you develop a guide to help them navigate the new local travel era –connect them easily with local trip options, travel advice, cancellation policy norms insurances, government health advice, etc?
    • What to do if the borders start closing?

As this situation changes and evolves so too does the need for our policy & procedures to evolve with the changing environment that might impact the way our communities once operated.

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Now more than ever it is vital to have a peer network… FREE – Join the DCMI Peer Network!

Much like border restrictions the retirement village industry is changing and evolving every day.

This is why it’s so beneficial to have buddies who are travelling the same road as you, to compare notes and talk things through.

At the DCM Institute we are committed to building this network of buddies, mates, professional colleagues alongside you in every state.

Our DCMI Peer Network is open to everyone – if you are a DCMI Member or not – including customer facing roles or head office roles.

With new legislation, industry frameworks, consumer trends, workforce challenges, service offerings, external influences of the pandemic, the list of things going on is endless.

It’s a lot to take in on your own.

That is why now more than ever it is vital that you remain connected to a group of likeminded peers to share experiences, learnings and sometimes even just validation that you are on the right path.

In many ways it’s a mental relief valve.

You can be welcomed at the October network meetings by clicking here.

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Village customers stronger than ever, despite or because of COVID

A number of Village Professionals have reached out to us to ask ‘how is the market going’ for retirement village sales.

We asked our colleague Carmella Rowsthorne at villages.com.au what is happening and she delivered the above graph for the 13 months from September last year to September 2020.

It shows that last year in September just under 3,800 people searched for a retirement village each day on villages.com.au.

This September, the same number of people are searching.

Numbers are actually up

But here is the thing. Victoria accounts for 35% of the Australian population and they have been in severe lockdown since July. They have not been able to even think of looking at villages let alone sell their homes. It was basically illegal.

So when you add this into the mix, you have to say the average number of people looking seriously at a village option has gone up in 2020.

The only changes have been multiple crises. Fires, drought and now COVID.

The family home is no longer as safe as it was last year.

Have you been receiving a higher level of enquiry? If not, perhaps you are not listing your village on villages.com.au. With 1.2M visits a year it is the No.1 village search destination.

You can find out more from Carmella by emailing her at Carmella.Rowsthorne@thedcmgroup.com.au.

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Volunteering – staying busy and finding purpose in challenging time​s

Mental health has been one of the big themes in our conversations with village professionals this year. When you consider the year we’ve had, it’s hardly surprising.

Time and time again village professionals have expressed concerns about the mental health of members of their communities, and this has made us think about our own experiences in villages.

For us, the happiest people in villages were always those with a sense of purpose.

This can come in many forms, be it caring for a pet, managing a communal veggie patch, participating in a club or even helping out a neighbour.

But another route that is often overlooked is volunteering.

Volunteering linked to mental health

In the July 2020 issue of Greater Good Magazine, Elizabeth Hooper identified a link between volunteering and mental health.

“New research suggests that volunteers aren’t just helping the communities they serve. People who volunteer actually experience a boost in their mental health,” she said.

While there are some initiatives that can’t be undertaken during a pandemic, many organisations are offering opportunities to volunteer remotely from home.

And these are perfect for staff or residents who could use a pick-me-up!

Friends For Good offers friendly ear to listen

A great example we’ve recently become aware of is the Friends for Good program.

Friends for Good is a Not For Profit driven by volunteer to help fight loneliness with a FriendLine, which is basically a phone line anyway can call for a chat.

This is a great option for villages – not just for potentially lonely residents, but for staff members who’d like to volunteer their time to help someone in need.

You can learn more about Friends for Good here.

Staying busy, finding purpose

A busy village is a happy village.

In our experience that has proven so very true.

If you have a resident or staff member looking a little lost and lonely our advice would be reach out, discover their interests and suggest they get involved in something they enjoy.

Volunteering isn’t the solution to every problem – but it can be a great way to find joy and a sense of purpose in these challenging times.