Facility Manager Key things to help you everyday Village Operator

Diversity and Inclusion requires Belonging to be effective for all residents

Why is diversity an objective in retirement communities?

In essence, a commitment to diversity within your village is an acknowledgement of the benefits that having a wide variety of people, heritages, ideas and experiences can offer in building a vibrant community!

Australia has one of the most diverse older populations in the world, with a significant proportion of the Australian seniors community identifying as:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD)
  • Veterans of the Australian Defence Force or an allied defence force (or the spouse, widow or widower of a veteran)
  • LGBTIQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/gender diverse, intersex and queer)
  • Disabled or living with a significant health concern

So, while we often talk about ‘Diversity’, do we really understand its importance to our staff and our village communities?

Firstly, it is important to recognise that diversity cannot work without inclusion, and that ‘diversity and inclusion’ cannot be sustained without belonging.

In simple terms:

Diversity is the characteristics that make people unique. 

Inclusion is the behaviours and community norms that make people feel welcome.

Belonging is an individual’s sense of acceptance by others.

How can Village Professionals promote Diversity?

What are some of the activities village professionals can do to establish and promote Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in the workplace and within village communities?

Having a conscious approach to support the diverse nature of residents living in your village is vital to operational planning, resident satisfaction and service delivery within your community.

Recognise and consider inclusive activities, which increase in importance as people age and face the possibility of isolation.

Ensure that older Australians remain valued and have the same access to opportunities whatever their differences.

Establish inclusive practices as part of everyday operational activities, whether it is at meetings, operational planning, or as part of project considerations within the village community. 

Additionally, you can:

  • Provide activities that appeal to diverse groups
  • Conduct regular education/reminders to village teams about diversity
  • Address and discourage others’ bias toward ageing
  • Hold open conversations across the entire village (not just with a select few)
  • Include stories, recipes & information in newsletters that represent the diversity of the village community
  • Ask residents what they would like to share about their heritage, lifestyle or background
  • Ensure diversity activities are an agenda item on team and resident meetings

A quick quote from Jesse Jackson:

“When everyone is included, everyone wins.”

Facility Manager Key things to help you everyday Village Operator

Community engagement includes engaging with residents

I’ve talked previously about the changing characteristics of this next generation, the Baby Boomer. They are now rapidly taking up occupancy in our villages. 

Just like they have done in every aspect of their journey, Boomers are displaying traits and behaviours that call for new consultation and communication models.   

One of the best examples of why we should consult with residents is the video above left by Becky Hirst. In it, she explained she knows nothing about road construction – but she knows everything about the road she lives on, because she walks and drives it every day and night.

Watch it HERE and it will give you a smile. It may cause you to rethink resident consultation as well.

Becky has been speaking at our VILLAGE SUMMIT events around the country on the building steps and importance of Community Engagement.

If you are interested in finding out more about Becky, she has recently written published her book, For the Love of Community Engagement.

Find out more here –

Wanted and expected? Yes and yes   

The activity we have already seen over the last 5 years, with the activation of the residents’ associations across the country, indicates strongly to me that residents want to – and expect to – be engaged in dialogue where decisions that may impact or affect their futures and lifestyles are occurring.  

The next time you’re making a decision, perhaps think a little bit more broadly about who the decision might impact or affect – and importantly, who else might be able to contribute valuable insight.  

Next time you are preparing to make a significant decision on behalf of your residents, consider how you might be able to come alongside your community and engage at a deeper level to gain a broader perspective from those impacted or affected.  

Key things to help you everyday Village Operator

What to know – and remember – for successful Financial Management

As you only too well know, Financial Management plays a critical role for all Village Managers and Operators, and how the decisions made can affect your residents.

For those of you that are Members of the DCM Institute program, you may have completed this topic and know what I am talking about.  However, with the New Year looming we thought it was a great opportunity to share some tips.  And now may be a good time to do a refresher of this topic in the Knowledge Centre.

Legislation Requirements

The Retirement Villages Act and associated Retirement Villages Regulations specify an operator’s obligations in relation to the financial management of retirement villages.

While we are not required to be accountants, we should know enough about the village financial matters to be able to understand the workings of the budgets and accounts.

By engaging and working with your finance department, qualified accountants and auditors, you will be able to confidently present sound budgets and accurate financial statements for the village.

We must also abide by the more general legislative local, State and Commonwealth obligations for relevant levies, rates, taxes and other legal responsibilities.

In the legislation are details the operator’s obligations related to:

  • The financial information provided to residents
  • How village funds can be collected, accrued and utilised
  • Where and for what purpose funds can be expended
  • Inclusions / exclusions of items specific to a fund type (capital, recurrent, general)
  • Reporting of the village’s income and expenditure
  • The timing, format of and processes to consult with and present to residents
  • The process for managing any finance related dispute
  • Disclosure statements and independent auditing
  • Resident incoming contributions and exit entitlements

It is a great idea to keep a copy of your relevant RV Act and regulations at hand for quick reference, (hard copy or internet booked marked).

Common Village Practices

Village Budgets

A budget is simply a way of thinking ahead financially.

The Village budget represents the expenses you expect to incur and the income you propose to receive during the 12 month forecast period; it is a statement of anticipated income and expenditure.  A well-prepared budget will determine whether your income is likely to exceed your expenditure, and if so by how much.

When preparing the Village budget, we should undertake a process of review and verification to ensure budget data and inputs are accurate and have a sound basis for inclusion.

Refer to the Budget Planning Guide in the DCMI Portal to assist with your budget planning process.

Village Funds

The Financial Management of a village includes the way an operator manages the funds of the village.

This extends to a legislative prescribed regime for the classification of and responsibility for, expenditure relating to all village related funds.

Compliance with the Retirement Villages legislation for your state is imperative, as its adherence to any related terms of each resident’s contract.

The following gives a general overview of the types of funds that are prescribedPlease note the name and obligations of these funds may vary from state to state.

Each Village generally has 3 funds

  • A capital replacement fund for replacing the village’s capital items
  • A maintenance reserve fund for maintaining and repairing the village’s capital items
  • A general services charges fund for the cost of services that are supplied or made available to all residents of a retirement village

General Services / Recurrent Charges

Residents collectively fund general services via general services charges; however, the operator pays general services charges (or part) for unsold units and vacated units

General services is defined as ‘services supplied, or made available, to all residents of a retirement village’

  • Providing, operating and managing the community facilities
  • Gardening and landscaping
  • Managing security at the village
  • Maintaining an emergency help system and safety equipment
  • Cleaning, maintenance and repairs of and to the community facilities
  • Administration’ and or ‘Management’ costs

The Act also regulates the charging of general services to a resident after the resident has vacated. 

An Operator may reduce the period a resident is required to pay the charge but is not able to compel a resident to pay this charge beyond the prescribed period.

Maintenance Reserve Fund (MRF)

This fund provides for the ongoing maintenance and repair of the village’s capital items.

The income into this fund is generally derived as a monthly contribution from the General Services Fund.

Capital Fund

The treatment of Capital items can vary from state to state and also with different resident contracts.  In general Capital items are:

  • The buildings and structures located in the retirement village and owned by the operator, including the communal facilities, amenities and accommodation units,
  • But are not items that, under the residence contract, are to be maintained, repaired and replaced by the resident.

Where required by legislation and/or to achieve best practice, a Quantity Surveyor’s report should be updated or completed to identify the minimum requirements an operator has in relation to the Capital Fund.

The Quantity Surveyor report would then provide the basis for the Capital Fund expenditure for that year.

Capital expenditure items would include the cost of:

  • The Quantity Surveyor report
  • The provision/replacement of all initial/ongoing capital items
  • Building & structural expenditure
  • Plant & equipment
  • Communal hot water
  • Air-conditioning
  • Community facility furnishings
  • Vehicles
  • Roads/paths
  • Drainage/sewer
  • Initial landscaping
  • Electrical distribution systems

Additional financial management considerations may include:

Personal Services

  • Defined as ‘optional services supplied or made available for the benefit, care or enjoyment of a resident of a retirement village’ (e.g. laundry, meals, cleaning)
  • Payable personally by those residents who receive the services
  • Amounts charged, and increases in charges, that are not regulated by the RV Act – purely contractual.  The operator can include a profit component
  • Where a service is not supplied or made available to all residents of the village, then it is a personal service

Special Levy

A special levy is a fee which a resident is required to pay for an unforeseen expense of the retirement village. The special levy is generally applied with the consent of residents through a special resolution.

Surplus and Deficits Policy

All villages should have a Policy, compliant with legislation, which clearly defines how any surplus or deficit in the operating budget will be treated.

Marketing costs

The cost for sales and marketing, related to the remarketing of units and also the general sales and marketing of the village, must abide by legislation.

Vacating and Re-sale related costs (including refurbishment)

There may be costs to make good, refit or refurbish the unit when a resident vacates their unit and the residence is then put on the market as a “re-sale”.

The costs, by whom they will be paid and how they are treated are represented in the resident contract and defined in legislation.

Key things to help you everyday Village Operator

Resident conversations: stepping out of our own perspective

As busy village professionals our days are filled with many different conversations from the polite ‘good mornings, lovely day’ through to more serious conversations about troubling issues or resident concerns.  

Many of these conversations will ultimately require a solution. So, it is easy when we are busy to slip automatically into solution mode, thinking we will need to be able to have the answer to every problem, or situation that arises. 

With that, we tend to fall into the habit of listening to respond or resolve.  However, often this has the reverse effect, leaving the person sharing their issue or concern feeling like they haven’t been heard.  

In my experience, effective listening is one of the most critical skills needed when managing complex conversations. 

In today’s fast paced world, people in general are craving to be heard and sometimes it is just the process of feeling heard that will be enough to resolve a concern.  

Listening Strategies

Over the years I have gathered a long line of suggestions as I strive to be a better listener; here are the obvious ones:

  • Focus and pay attention 
  • Maintaining eye contact  
  • Be present, remove distractions where possible 
  • Being conscious of body language, lean into the conversation  
  • Let the person complete their sharing before responding  
  • Reconfirm your understanding of the conversation details 

Then there are the ones I like to remind myself of when dealing with difficult conversations:

  • Know that I don’t have to have all the answers
  • Listen to understand, not to respond 
  • Ask questions to gain a more detailed explanation 
  • Listen with the pursuit of understanding  
  • Step out of your own perspective  

It is this last step that can often be the hardest.  To be able to step away and see a situation from someone else’s perspective is a real skill.  

We all develop our understanding, based on our own lived experiences and knowledge to date.  Without the willingness to listen, to understand and consider another person’s perspective, it is often very hard to reach a ‘win: win’ conclusion.   

Simon Sinek a leading public speaker and optimist with many videos on YouTube and a number of TED talks, reinforces these ideas further in his video Be The Last to Speak

Click here to view the video, which I am sure you will all resonate with.
Key things to help you everyday Things to watch Village Operator

Getting consultation right is vital in building happy communities

Consultation is something most of the Retirement Village Acts around the country refer to as being a useful practice to achieve change.   

However, in my experience the consultation process can be an area of misunderstanding and even result in disputes between operators and residents.    

In a recent newsletter put out by Office of Ageing Well – SA they shared some great considerations around consultation, included below. 

“Consultation in its most basic meaning is the act or process of formally discussing something. Discussion means the act or process of talking about something in order to exchange ideas”.  

It is worth noting consultation, as an act, does not have the same meaning as an announcement (a public statement of fact, occurrence or intention) nor is it a negotiation (a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement).

Keeping residents fully informed about what is happening in the village and providing opportunities for them to provide feedback and ask questions is vital to creating trust, preventing misunderstandings or disputes, and creating a harmonious community.

Why is Good Consultation Important in Villages?

Good consultation practices include three main areas:

  • Making residents aware of the matter that is being discussed
  • They are given a proper opportunity to express their views
  • That these views are taken into consideration when a decision is made

It is recommended that the matter which residents are being consulted about, is provided in writing prior to a discussion, so as to allow residents to consider and discuss the proposal with each other and family members.  

It can also be useful to follow up written consultation with individual/s and/or group meetings to allow residents to discuss options, ask questions or to clarify any issues which may be causing confusion. 

Office of Ageing Well also provided some great tips below, they suggest you do for improving consultation practices.  These are all ones I can fully endorse.   You may want to consider including these activities in your annual consultation plan to do several times a year.

Improve the level of resident satisfaction, by increasing the number of opportunities provided for residents to have their say 

  • Make consultation a habit 
  • Keep in touch with your residents on a regular basis   
  • Aim for dedicated Q&A sessions on a regular, planned basis  
  • Embrace positive and negative feedback—you will learn from it. Don’t ignore feedback or dodge complaints.  
  • Find out what aspects of life in the village are most important to the residents and then measure how well these are achieved
  • Consult before making changes and before any decision is finalised, otherwise it is not consultation, merely information provision
  • Very early on in my career in this sector I learnt the importance of regular, transparent, honest and two-way communication.  

I always tried to recognise the community is the residents’ home and therefore they should have the opportunity to input into how their community is being shaped.   

Key things to help you everyday What the research tells us

Do your residents struggle with the Digital Age? Here is a ‘village’ solution

It will be no surprise to you that many village residents struggle with the internet, and this makes life hard for them to just do things in the community.

Richard Scenna, co-founder ofYour Link, shared with me recently statistics from the 2020 Australian Digital Inclusion Index

The statistics highlight that people over 65 remain amongst the least digitally included age group in the country.

The research also reveals a pattern of diminishing digital inclusion, as age increases – particularly in relation to access and digital ability.

He went on to share that this same cohort had indicated in their recent survey, that 80% of people said, if they didn’t possess digital skills they felt locked out of essential services:

  • Government agency services
  • Online payment solutions
  • Public safety alerts
  • Online shopping/delivery options
  • Telehealth, and
  • COVID 19 related activities such as QR codes and digital updates. 

You can learn more in the related article from Richard here – Despite good intentions, seniors are left behind with digital progress.

Feeling locked out

Many also feel locked out or in the dark, like digital social engagement, connection, belonging, learning and entertainment. 

There is email, SMS, messenger groups, event registrations, Facebook pages, etc…

Once upon a time a phone was just used to call people!

A little help and knowledge can go a long way and, in my experience, programs delivered by third party providers, also go a long way to helping village professionals move their communities into the digital age. 

YourLink can bring digital education to your village

This is where YourLinkcan assist and a great service I have used for residents in the past.

I recommend you contact the team at Your Linkif you are wanting assistance for your residents with the digital age.  Some of the areas they provide are:

  • Bespoke digital coaching (1 to 1)
  • Employee/volunteer/carer digital literacy so they are able to assist others
  • Seniors’ digital literacy in groups (virtual or face to face)
  • Hearing & technology training events
  • Investigation of grant funded digital literacy solutions
  • Co-design digital literacy programs

Results of these programs show clear increase in digital confidence and participation.

For more information and to see how they may be able to help your resident communities, click here: YourLink – Digital confidence and support for older Australians

Key things to help you everyday

Why a Social Media Strategy has to be on your 2022 Marketing Hit List?

With the average Australian spending 88 hours per month online, it should be no surprise to find that one of the biggest cohorts using social media is the baby boomer.

Research shows, the baby boomer is primarily infatuated with Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.

Recent data from IAB Australia indicates that during COVID lockdowns, digital news consumption increased over 38%.  While digital consumption of real estate related content, increased by 44% in the last 12 months.

These facts should leave you with no doubt, that a village social media presence must be part of your village marketing strategies moving forward.

Don’t sell. Educate first

Whilst there is a temptation to sell, sell, sell that no matter the platform used, when it comes to marketing, the professionals warn of this strategy on social media.

Judi Carr, Director, Content Republic, shared with DCM Institute members at this month’s webinar the golden rule of social media marketing is to EDUCATE first & SELL second.

She explained the role of social media should be primarily to increase brand awareness and develop trust in your brand.  It is only then, you have the opportunity for the audience to engage with your brand and then, you have the opportunity to sell to your audience.

Around the country this month, we heard the biggest road block to successful social media strategies, is the need for the ongoing development of content.

How to create social media content 

Judi had a great recommendation when starting to build content and to follow a create, curate and syndicate approach. This is best explained as:

  • Create – create original posts
  • Curate – add some commentary to others posts, relevant to your audience
  • Syndicate – simply share others posts that add value to your audiences’ interests

Creating content doesn’t need to be difficult.  Some easy methods in helping contribute to your marketing teams content plan is to adopt the following: 

  • Always be on hand with a camera to capture those great resident moments around your village. Don’t forget to share these with the person managing your social media
  • More stories of engagement in your community shows it’s a happy place to be
  • Develop a social media resident sub-committee and have the residents share their ideas and capture content
  • Add it to your team meeting agendas to share anecdotes and ideas
  • Consider having the team repurpose existing content (from websites, brochures, newsletters & videos)

A couple of other golden rules when you are starting out on the social media journey:

  • Be authentic,
  • Be consistent; and
  • Ensure that all interactions are in line with your communities positioning and values.

You may even want to suggest if resource is a factor, to consider outsourcing to a professional like Content Republic to build your strategy and content

If your keen to know more, this month’s webinar is now available in our Knowledge Centre.

Key things to help you everyday Village Operator

Helping your Residents & Families understand the transition to aged care

The transition from independent living to aged care can be a difficult and uncertain time in your residents’ life.  You will be faced with many questions from their family and friends as well as the residents themselves:

  • Mum isn’t coping on her own – what can be done to help?
  • Judy hasn’t come to any activities for quite some time – is she ok?
  • Asking the village team to help with the shopping
  • Difficult behaviours
  • Other residents’ concerns
  • Your own observations
  • Guilt, fear and time stress are the prevailing emotions.

As the Village Manager, you will be faced to having those hard conversations and, in some cases, dealing with.

Our sister DCM web site is designed to educate and support all people about the late ageing journey.

One of the things we like most is this video, which explains the feeling of guilt, the time it takes to set up residential care and the essential Nine Steps.  It’s called ‘Precious Time’.

Check it out and let your people know it is there. Over 60,000 people visit every moth.

Key things to help you everyday Village Operator

Emergency planning – it’s not all about bushfire – but it is about a plan

Often when considering emergency planning in villages there is a tendency to focus on fire, and in particular bushfire.

How would your village, and importantly your residents, respond to any of the following events?

  • Gas Leak
  • Gunman on site
  • Live electrical wires
  • Flood
  • Explosion
  • Medical Emergency
  • A sewer flooded your village; or
  • Natural disaster that may leave your community without power, water or phone access

In my time in villages, I have had to deal with ALL of these emergency situations, and often remotely.  So, I have learnt the importance of having robust and regularly reviewed emergency plans in place that go far beyond having an evacuation diagram on the wall in the community centre.

Easy ‘must do’s’

It is not hard to prepare the basics of an Emergency Plan, and you will feel so much better when you have built the bones because you now will not be caught out at a time of stress.

Ideally your Emergency Plan should address:

  • Emergency contact details for key people who have specific roles or responsibilities under the Emergency Plan, for example fire wardens, & staff
  • Contact details for local emergency services
  • A process for alerting residents, for example a siren, whistles, telephone calls and door knocking
  • Evacuation procedures including arrangements for assisting any hearing, vision or mobility residents
  • A map of the village illustrating the location of fire protection equipment, emergency exits, assembly points
  • Triggers and processes for advising neighbours who may need to respond as well
  • A post-incident follow-up process, for example notifying the regulator, organising trauma counselling or medical treatment
  • What should be in and where should an emergency steel box be located with high vis vests, torches, battery operated radio, first aid kit, manuals, instructions, updated resident phone list, etc and where should it be located?

After the emergency

In my experience you should also consider adding information that addresses: 

  • What is the process to communicate with residents it is OK to come back to the Village?
  • What plans need to be actioned in the event the power, phone or water is to be cut off for days?
  • What is the relocation process in the event the home or homes are not habitable or accessible?

WH&S, legislation, ARVAS and insurance

Having an Emergency Plan, engaging with it and reviewing it is not only a Work Health & Safety requirement for your employees, it is also a new requirement of the NSW Retirement Villages Act and a requirement of the ARVAS scheme. 

It may also be a requirement or expectation of some insurance policies and of course would be seen as sound governance and risk management by your Board.

If you have not started this process, I would recommend you engage with an industry professional such as ESGA or First 5 Minutes, who both presented at our September Professional Development workshops. 

They are not only familiar with the requirements of emergency plans but also the idiosyncrasies of Retirement Villages.

However, if you would like to get a head start or review your current plan perhaps use this great emergency plan fact sheet tool checklist from Safework Australia as a guide.

Emergency Planning is a topic in our September PD days.  Keep an eye out for the recording of our recent webinar in the DCMI Knowledge Centre, available at the end of the month.

Covid-19 Key things to help you everyday

The ongoing impact of COVID is real….for residents and you

In nearly every reach out in our customer care calls to DCMI program Members over the last month there has been deep concern for your resident and team mental health. 

With Sydney well into its tenth week of lockdown, Melbourne on lockdown 6.0 and other states never knowing when the short snap lockdowns may occur, we are hearing more and more stories of exhaustion, worry, despair, anxiousness, and so many more feelings coming to a head.   

Real COVID impacts

These stories, rightly so, often start with concern for resident mental health as village professionals listen to resident’s sharing:

  • The impact of lockdown on their own physical health
  • The inability to connect with others
  • Unsure of when they may see family and friends   
  • Missing important milestones
  • Challenges of speaking & listening through a mask 
  • Not being able to give or receive family support
  • Missing that personal touch; and  
  • In some cases the ability to attend or continue with medical treatments/reviews   

You have shared with us the obvious and visible signs these impacts are having on resident mental health.  

How COVID can impact you

On top of these concerns, you are juggling the added worries about COVID coming into your village, keeping up with the ever-changing restrictions, implementing new legislative requirements whilst managing COVID and trying to have a plan to address the increasing non-essential maintenance that has had to be delayed. 

We have seen increased feelings of isolation, managing constantly changing and differing resident expectations, and of course your concern for residents declining during this time. 

Your oxygen mask

Hearing these stories reminded us of all of the great support tools that are out there to help support your residents, your teams and so very importantly yourselves. 

You will know the old saying “you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help others” in my experience it is so true.  

There are some great resources out there to help in these times and here are a couple that come to mind:

Perhaps check out the great advice and tools available at Beyond Blue specifically the webinar below developed for Retirement Village residents and teams, which we had some input.

There are also a number of great tips from The Black Dog Institute in dealing with the impact of COVID on mental health in this article –
10 tips for managing anxiety during COVID-19 – Black Dog Institute  

Or perhaps schedule sometime to grab a cuppa and reach out to a colleague (even if you have to do it on zoom). Chances are you are both feeling the same way and sometimes a problem shared is also a problem halved…  

We are thinking of you.