Our sister company DCM Research has been undertaking a project to understand the attitudes and motivations for people moving into retirement communities in 2020.
We asked potential residents about their main reason for moving into a retirement community and compared this to our results from 2018.
Take a look at this chart below:
Now look at our results from 2018.
37% of buyers would now choose a retirement village for a sense of community, compared to just 14% before the pandemic.
Participants of the Village Manager PD program have shared anecdotal evidence that supports this.
This is also true for existing residents.
Throughout the COVID crisis, the importance of community has escalated, with many residents that had previously not engaged in resident activity coming forward and being a part of the community.
Be it driveway bingo, plaza karaoke, balcony exercise or even quiz competitions, residents around the country have continued to express their appreciation for the community in which they live.
Community offers boundless mental and physical benefits.
Residents get a sense of belonging, an opportunity to try something new, be entertained, stay fit and health, have social connection, purpose and so much more.
As an industry, it is vital we acknowledge the importance of community, as we seek to educate the wider population and government of the significant role we play in providing happy, healthy communities for older Australians.
Over the past three months we have been working with operators and peak bodies to design the optimum market research program for these challenging times.
We have identified we must do deep research into who is today’s customer and what drives them in this COVID world. We need to capture the satisfaction of our residents and maximise our relationship with them, and market the strengths. And we need to ensure we are recognised as responsible corporate citizens.
The three research programs will deliver on these ideals.
Unique and accessible research program
Looking forward, sales will be challenging, and the knock on effect for every operator will be great.
Maintaining services for residents, settling departing resident obligations, retaining and supporting staff, securing the value of the physical community itself, will all be impacted.
New potential customers must be identified and engaged. Existing services must be reviewed and promoted. Regular business requirements must be executed.
As importantly, the sector must get on the front foot of community discussion on the benefits of retirement communities.
Each of these challenges and opportunities require sound data to take proactive actions.
We have designed the three research programs to deliver operators this data. As we have done in previous years, by building volume engagement, we have achieved an extraordinary pricing structure for all operators.
Collectively, I believe as a sector we need to use this unique opportunity that has been presented to us by the pandemic outcomes. People are spending more time thinking about their future, reading the paper, consuming digital media and researching life options.
It is the ideal time to promote what our sector offers and our individual communities.
Our sister group, DCM Research, has just got back the first exploratory stage of their survey of the general public aged 60+, and there are some real surprises.
They did this research in 2018 across 1,109 people and found just 2% felt lonely and isolated.
In the first few weeks of June this year, 2020, they found 27% felt lonely and isolated. That is a huge difference with COVID-19 the obvious trigger.
Across a range of two-hour interviews, the researchers learnt that people now recognise that if even their children live in another part of the same city, let alone in another city, they won’t always be able to come to their aid.
They also discovered the meaning of isolation – what happens with grocery shopping when they have to stay in their home and they’re not comfortable on the Internet.
Now think of your residents locked down and isolated, with you and your staff simply being there and available, giving reassurance. On top of that is the wide range of activities and support services village management give across the country.
Now isn’t a time when we should be shying away and slowing down our marketing activities. With the expectation that the market is slowing and enquiry is reducing, reduced spending in marketing is seen as the easiest way to save some budget.
With this new market of customers who are thinking about their long-term living situation, quite the opposite is needed.
Similarly, I do not think we should be resting on our laurels using the same old same old marketing messages: “great lifestyle, location and stone bench tops”. These are ‘givens’ today.
We need the language that the DCM Research is discovering. (You can learn more about the research projects HERE).
One really interesting point that they have discovered is the emotion of control and independence.
We all talk about living independently in a retirement village, generally meaning the resident can look after themselves, prepare their own meals and so on without support.
What the researchers are saying is slightly different; they are saying residents see joining a retirement village as taking control of their life and achieving independence. This is what they said:
A sense of control and staying independent into old age are key motivators
The decision to move from the family home is a highly emotional one, with many emotions present simultaneously – both positive and negative. However, underlying all potential reasons to make the move is the desire for control – control over one’s life, control over the decision-making process, and most importantly control over how long one can remain independent before needing external support or moving to a nursing home.
This is something we can celebrate in our sales discussions with potential residents and our marketing.
As a sector we provide unique and positive benefits and services to our residents. Let’s tell the world!
The buyback regulations in Queensland are really beginning to hurt village operators, with early signs of village insolvencies appearing.
Last week an attractive 45-home village at Tin Can Bay, 80km north of Noosa, went into receivership because the owners could not find the cash to pay out the departing residents 18 months after their homes were vacated.
The regulations affect private village operators that have contracts where the resident is a ‘registered interest holder’ and likely sharing in the capital gain or loss on the sale of the property. These are predominantly ‘lease license’ contracts.
Also last week, the NSW government finalised its new buyback regulations. In summary, an operator will be required to pay out the departing family after six months in metropolitan areas and 12 months in regional areas after the home is available for sale.
‘Available for sale’ means when the home has had its refurbishment completed and contracts etc. are ready. In most cases this adds another three months.
An important condition is the operator can be exempted from the buyback payment if they can demonstrate they have used all reasonable efforts to market the home.
For village management, making the most of every sale enquiry and detailed record keeping will be vital.
In other states, 18-month buybacks are the norm.
The message is every sale opportunity is important because accumulated stock will be very expensive for the operator and unsatisfactory for the resident and their family.
This is a great service that you may find useful as a concept – and if you are in Victoria or Mid North Coast of NSW.
How R U is a program that matches older people who may feel isolated with a volunteer who will call them weekly or twice weekly over 12 weeks, or until social and physical distancing restrictions are lifted.
It is being championed by leading Not For Profit operator Bolton Clarke. Principal Research Fellow Adj Prof Judy Lowthian said the program was based on a pilot she conducted in Melbourne with older people discharged from emergency departments and hospitals.
“We know the importance of social connection for wellbeing – particularly at the moment,” Adj Prof Lowthian said. “With COVID-19 people are not having as much social contact as they did before.”
Under the program, which is already operating in Victoria, Bolton Clarke will work with volunteer organisation Friends for Good to match older people with volunteers who have similar interests.
“They provide social contact and talk about news, hobbies and shared interests. What we found in our initial program is that people felt they could tell their volunteer things they couldn’t discuss with their family, because there was a degree of anonymity. After 12 weeks we found people were waiting for the call and we were able to reduce feelings of loneliness and depression and improve wellbeing.”
The program is being expanded to be available to older people in the Lake Macquarie, Port Macquarie and Tweed-Hastings local government (of NSW).
The project is funded under the NSW Government’s Combating Social Isolation for Seniors during COVID-19 Grant Program.
If you are a Village Manager in these areas and know of residents that may benefit from this service, reach out to 1300 22 11 22.
It is really important for us to project the most professional image for Village Managers. A big part of this is the presentation and ‘smarts’ behind our website – for us and for you.
This week has seen the big achievement for our DCM Institute team with the launch of our latest in learning portals, the DCMI Knowledge Centre. Check it out HERE.
We think you will be impressed. It has been nine months in development since we discovered what we thought was the best when we were in Washington DC last year visiting Leading Age, the peak association over there and we saw their learning systems.
The new portal will offer existing participants in our Village Management Professional Development a truly great experience when you access your personal records – all of which have been transferred over from our old system, plus:
The latest learnings technology in our Knowledge Centre
The opportunity to personalise your learning journey
Retirement Living specific topics with a variety of learning elements – videos, articles, papers, interviews, resources and tools
An Online Resource Bank with over 150 operational resources, templates, policies and forms
An Online peer discussion board
4 x Professional Development workshop days
Tailor your learning journey
It’s not just the launch of the new Knowledge Centre that is exciting but also the tweaks that we have made to the already successful annual professional development program.
Over the coming months, the DCM Institute team will be working with a variety of Industry specialist partners to include additional topics of relevance to the Knowledge Centre, affording you the opportunity to tailor your learning journey to meet your individual skill development requirements and your interest areas.
These topics will further expand into areas such as sales, marketing, integrating care, infection control, business continuity, high rise asset management and more…
Changes to the NSW regulations includes a requirement for Retirement Village operators to prepare and put into practice a clear and accessible strategy for both staff and residents to better identify and respond to the abuse of older people living in a retirement village.
The Ageing and Disability Commissioner, Robert Fitzgerald AM, has notified the sector that he has established new officers to visit villages to check they have strategies and procedures in place. Serious fines will be given if not found or they are not adequate.
The Commissioner has also organised tools and guidance on forming strategies. You can find them here.
Since the Government’s forced closure of pubs, clubs and community centres on March 23, both operators and residents have shared concerns with us about the impact COVID-19 may have on monthly resident fees and annual village expenditure.
In some villages, residents have requested monthly fee reductions, due to the closure of common facilities.
In others, managers have shared concerns about unexpected costs for infection control; and potential changes to service delivery.
What are the obligations of operators and residents in relation to monthly service fees?
It was a relief last week when Tammy Berghofer – from leading industry law firm, MinterEllison – gave us some legal insights on this front.
First up, there is no obligation to reduce monthly resident fees because of temporary closures ‘in compliance with legal directions’.
“There is no legislative requirement for recurrent (non-optional) services charges (variously described as general services charges, recurrent charges or maintenance charges) to be reduced due to the temporary closure of facilities or cessation of activities within a retirement village in compliance with legal directions”.
She says these fees are not your normal consumer ‘fees for service’. They are the resident’s ‘contribution’ to running the village.
“These types of recurrent services charges in retirement villages are fundamentally different from many other fees or charges for common consumer services.
“As a general rule, these recurrent services charges are:
a resident’s individual contribution to the overall ongoing costs of operating the village (similar to strata levies or council rates) – they are not a ‘fee for service’;
‘cost recovery’ only, with all charges applied to paying the costs of operating the village; and
levied under a budget set at the beginning of the financial year, which may not be able to be changed under relevant retirement villages legislation until the next year.”
She also talked about the possible impact of COVID-19 on the overall costs of the village over 12 months, which residents will need to take into account.
“The closure of facilities will not necessarily mean there is an overall reduction in operating costs.”
“The reduced operation of some facilities may result in lower costs being incurred throughout the year (such as certain maintenance or energy costs). However, other village costs may be increasing at the same time as a result of COVID-19 (such as additional costs of management, administration, and staff and resident communications to comply with government rules and safety guidelines)”.
“It may not be until the end of the current financial year that the ultimate cost impact can be determined with any certainty”.
Tammy also highlighted the importance of checking in with your industry legal partner early if you need clarification or support. She has made herself available to her clients – often times, at little or no expense.
Here is a great idea that you might be able to use if you are in NSW – and think about elsewhere.
The NSW Liberal government late last week launched the Combating Social Isolation for Seniors during COVID-19 Grant Program.
These grants are available to organisations (like villages and operators) to help create programs that foster social inclusion for seniors activities.
The grants must help older people connect with each other through online engagement or other ways,
Example programs could include:
a service provider starting a program of social support calls to isolated seniors (an example would be your emergency call centre doing outbound calls to residents – INS is one supplier that does this)
running regular online conference calls for groups meeting up such as craft, men’s sheds, etc. ‘House Party’ is a popular app for this and you may get funding to drive it
creating an online cafe or carer support group
Even if you’re not based in NSW it is worth doing some research into other grants that may be available for seniors during the pandemic.
A great place to start is obviously google but don’t forget your Local Member is also likely to have information in relation to possible grant options for a program you maybe wanting to get off the ground.