DCM established villages.com.au in 2006 and it has grown steadily through GFCs, negative media coverage and now a changing consumer, thanks to the first Baby Boomers now passing age 75.
In 2021 traffic grew a BIG 11% Year on Year with over 1.3 million visits. Remember, the only reason people visit villages.com.au are people who have had an event in their lives (or their parents) and they are looking at future accommodation options.
But last month saw another significant jump, significantly in the number of people reaching out to operators, seeking more information.
All up, 17,400 people took the next step with a website click, phone call or an email, which was the choice of 1,200 people.
To place this in perspective, just 23,000 village homes become available to sell. That is 1,963 homes a month.
With 17,400 people putting up their hand as interested, demand does exceed supply.
Want to know more about villages.com.au, email us HERE.
As reported in our sister publication SATURDAY, last weekend, the pandemic and isolation has seen a buoyant sales market for many operators however the focus needs to remain on the customer relationship.
We are seeing new village customer’s as being older, now 76 to 80, compared to 10 years ago when 73 was the average age. This means a shorter time in the village and more frequent rollovers, with the integrated model of care becoming more increasingly a game changer.
Today’s customer is wanting more, so therefore with 65% of Australian villages older than 25 years, the pool of potential customers open to older stock is shrinking. Insert Community Apartment Projects (CAPS) and Land Lease villages who are targeting the younger over 55 population.
Village operators are continually having to lift their game in extra services and facilities to attract residents. Christopher Rooke, Partner and Managing Partner of One Fell Swoop comments “People are cashed up and spending more wisely, with much higher expectations around the built form and lifestyle experience”.
First Impressions are Everything
These higher prices and demand for quality product are growing higher expectations of the customer. They are demanding a more authentic and open communication approach, therefore educating prospects, throughout the sales process and right through to making their chosen village their new home is essential.
The article continues to explore how one operator in particular Village Glenfounded by Chas Jacobsen and managed by Peter Nilsson, Chief Operating Officer explains the buyer journey can take years and therefore building a long-term relationship with the new customer is key.
Peter also says “In my view the brand is the village manager and the village staff, because they are the ones who can make a difference to the resident’s life. So for that reason we have the management team involved in the sales process.”
As you all know in building these long-term relationships, you are building trust and by the time they move in feel part of the family.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 Code of Conduct is an important step in professionalising the retirement living sector. It provides a road map for best practice in resident relations and operations.
It was formally introduced five months ago by Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) and the Retirement Living Council (RLC). More than 600 villages have now signed up – a great start. They include Bolton Clarke, Oak Tree, IRT, Goodwin, Southern Cross Care WA, Masonic Care WA, Living Choice, Ryman Healthcare, Aveo, Lendlease, Stockland, Australian Unity and RetireAustralia.
However, this leaves 1,600 villages to go. To help villages, a provisional period has been established, making it easier for you to go through the process.
The RLC’s Policy and Communications Officer – Retirement Living, Patrick Tilley, says the provisional period – which could range from six up to 12 months if approved by the Code Administrator, Dr Elizabeth Lanyon, will give smaller operators the time they need to become Code compliant.
Our DCM Institute Village Management Professional Development Program makes the Code a lot simpler; we provide participants with the tools and resources to become Code compliant.
Please get in touch with Judy Martin if you would like to know more about how to access these tools.
To find out more about the Code and Provisional Registration, click here.
It is the sixth time that Ryman, New Zealand’s largest retirement village operator, has taken the top award in the ‘Aged Care and Retirement Village’ category in the Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brands awards.
Ryman previously won in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.
With 32 villages in NZ, they now have 11 in the pipeline in and around Melbourne.
Ryman villages provide a continuum of care, from independent living to serviced apartments to residential care.
From now until nearly the end of the year Resident Committees play a significant role in the formation of operating expenditure budgets, providing feedback for future capital works projects and assisting with annual meeting proceedings.
This month in the DCMI Village Manager PD program we have been discussing the role of the Resident Committee and how building collegial relationship with them can in fact be extremely beneficial to the village, resident satisfaction and harmonious operations.
The role of the resident’s committee is really as the voice of the residents, a safeguard mechanism for the residents financial/lifestyle interests.
Whilst there are some variances from state to state on the specifics of the role of Resident Committees, in nearly all states Resident Committees are not the decision making bodies. Instead they are bodies that represent the residents.
One of the most important activities you can undertake with your Resident Committee is to document the agreement of roles, responsibilities, behaviours, expectations and process.
This will assist to provide clarification on who is to do what, what the expectations are of each person in the relationship and timelines for identified activities.
Some items to consider when documenting this process might include:
Meeting with the Chair prior to the meeting to jointly prepare
The provision to table research or issues for discussion prior to meetings
Process for communications outside of meetings – perhaps nominating one person from each party as the communication medium (Chair/Secretary)
Type of activities the Resident Committee is happy to assist with (research perhaps)
A timeline for review of the process
Communications to residents after the meeting
Process for disagreements or escalation
In my own experience when the relationship between the Resident Committee, the Village Manager and the Operator is one based on trust, respect, and honesty, then great things can be achieved in villages, and village operations tend to be more efficient.
We at the DCM Institute are committed to continue to provide industry specific tools, resources and support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to assist you in your day to day operations.
We want to understand what is working, what you are finding challenging and what solutions you require.
We have created an online survey to help the sector understand how village communities are navigating the changes required for the coronavirus.
The findings will be released back to you and used by us to build future tools and resources of support, and to help inform businesses, industries and governments on how they can provide services and support to benefit and improve the lives of older Australians and the village teams that support them.
Keep an eye out in your inbox, you will receive an email for the survey 5 minutes after receiving this newsletter.
Please, can I request you take 5 minutes to complete this short survey.
Reports from the field by the likes of Stockland are telling us that retirement village enquiry, reservations and settlements are up, compared to this time last year, by 10 to 15%. Is this your experience?
Villages that have a clear ‘home care’ support offer are doing particularly well.
Omega Communities in Adelaide, which is two villages that offer ‘family care’ (like private aged care) is consistently running at 95% occupancy. LDK Seniors Living in Canberra, a new village, is selling two new homes a week at over $800,000 each. (They have close to 400 to sell by the way).
They call their offer the ‘One Move Promise’ – their home care support means you will never have to move to an aged care home.
For your village, having a clear relationship with your local home care providers will help your sales as well. It’s a good idea to have at least a folder of local services like physiotherapists and even cleaners that you can show potential residents. Simple but effective.