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Village Operator What the research tells us

Food is hard to deliver – or is it with new technology

Historically retirement villages have not engaged in food service because residents are independent, meaning they can prepare their own meals in their own home.

For operators and management, it has also been a high risk and high cost adventure to test if residents want meals prepared for them.

But all this is changing, as marketers see food as a differentiator and a way of creating community. And residents are increasingly expecting meals to be available on demand, just like they do at home through Uber Eats!

The major reason to think about food is nutrition. Poor nutrition, the balance between volume and nutrients the food selected to eat, is the fastest route to physical decline in the aged.

New services, new technologies

In a recent edition of SATURDAY, our editor Lauren Broomham reported on a number of services and technologies now available.  Some of these included ‘Digital plates’ that scan resident’s meals before and after and identifies food intake and nutrition, cashless apps and more you will want to know about. 

We have selected a few that you can give you an insight into the future of food.

Meals on demand

https://thedcminstitute.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Food-tech-grows-up.pdf

Many operators throughout lockdowns have utilised these services for their residents. 

They are also a great option for someone recovering from a stay in hospital who is unable to get out and about or just pure convenience.

Some of the new and established entrants include:

  • TLC Meals is a service for discharged hospital patients and delivers a range of frozen, nutritious meals to clients, catering for a range of dietary and medical requirements.
     
  • Lite n’ Easy has developed a range specifically for the elderly. They have partnered with a number of Home Care package providers to deliver meals to older Australians and has over 100 meals to choose from subsidised by up to 70% of the resident’s Home Care Package (HCP).
     
  • SPC is the well-known Australian food company. It has announced it’s move into a nutritional healthcare company for older people in residential care and at home. They already have produced their ProVital brand which specialises in fruit-based snacks and beverages and home delivered meals under the Good Meal brand. They are now focusing on offering food products easy to open for people suffering from arthritis.

Outsourced food management

  • CBORD – an American food technology company that specialises in retirement communities universities and hospitals, has created a whole digital front and back end for food management and nutrition. It scans every plate before a meal is eaten and afterwards with the remaining scraps and calculates the nutrition intake of the resident, and that’s just the start. Many Australian hospitals and some aged care operators and are using CBORD.
     
  • Compass Group Australia, Senior Living – a catering and hospitality services business that offers a full suite of support services to the senior living and healthcare sector from gardening to reception services, and now they will operate your food service for you.

Click HERE to read the full article.

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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. 

https://www.yourlink.com.au/

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.

https://www.yourlink.com.au/

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.

https://www.yourlink.com.au/

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.

https://www.yourlink.com.au/

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

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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.

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

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 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 What the research tells us

Independent resident surveys and the importance of benchmarking the sector

It’s time of year where many operators need to consider their requirements under regulations, the Code of Conduct or Accreditation to invest in an annual resident survey.

If you are a NSW village you are required to conduct a resident survey under Rules of Conduct, for instance.

We’re a huge supporter of this process.

It’s an opportunity for residents to be heard, and for operators to obtain information that can develop into future services and business plans.

Personally, we prefer surveys that are undertaken by a third party, and provide the opportunity for benchmarking across the sector.

Why is benchmarking important?

Benchmarking is how we, as an industry, identify the highest level of achievements in the sector, so we can improve our performance standards.

This is valuable data that can be presented to governments and the media.

In-house resident surveys are still a valuable exercise and can be useful for operational decisions.

But we believe it is far more powerful to understand where you fit in the sector.

This highlights areas for immediate attention, areas for celebration and possibilities.

Here are some key questions to answer when considering your survey process:

  • Does it cover the key elements of the ARVAS standards?
  • Will it address key legislation requirements to provide evidence of review?
  • What performance and speciality areas are investigated?
  • How engaged will residents be?
  • What information could you collect that would benefit residents?
  • Which survey format is best for your village – written, online or a mix of both?
  • How are you going to collate and interpret results?
  • What is the best mechanism to share results?

There are a range of survey services, including the DCM Research one stop outsourcing program.

 Drop me a line HERE and I can let you know your choices.

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Latest industry developments What the research tells us

Join the Property Council Retirement Census

The upcoming PwC/Property Council Retirement Census is open and just around the corner.  

It’s open to all Australian retirement village operators and there is no cost to participate.

The Retirement Census profiles the physical characteristics of villages, ownership details, business attributes (e.g. tenure, financial structure, operating overheads), sales, resident profiles (e.g. demographics, length of stay), and future development.

We’d encourage all villages to participate, as the census is vital for:

  • Tracking the state of the sector
  • Comparison with international markets
  • Government lobbying
  • Providing data and facts for operators

Operators who participate in the survey get a free 60+ page report to helps them benchmark their business and keep up with sector trends. 

For more information, click here.

DCM Research National Resident Survey 2020

We’d also like to draw your attention to DCM Research’s National Resident Survey.

This piece of research is designed to help village professionals understand their residents and allows you to benchmark your community against the sector.

Participating villages will receive:

  • Final report in hard and soft copy (175 pages+)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) for each village and operator.
  • ResiRating – Score out of five for village and marketing purposes.
  • Resident satisfaction score out of 100.

The National Resident Survey is in the field in September. For more information, click here.

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Latest industry developments Reporting Results What the research tells us

Community, community, community – the key motivation for potential residents!

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.

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Latest industry developments What the research tells us

Please join our 2020 retirement community research program

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.

To obtain a prospectus, click here

For enquiries, contact anna.archibald@thedcmgroup.com.au or 02 9555 9576.

Timing: the research of todays’ customer is in the field now and the first results will be available by the end of this month (July).

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

Post COVID: “Now is the time” to focus on the key marketing messages for Retirement Living communities across the country…. like loneliness and isolation

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!

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What the research tells us

COVID-19: The positive influence on retirement communities….

On a weekly basis, I am delighted to receive emails from participants in the Village Management Professional Development program about the many wonderful initiatives that are being undertaken to support retirement living residents in their villages.

Tracey Palser, the Village Manager at Catalina Village on the NSW North Coast, shared with me a simple but yet very much appreciated strategy she has put in place for the dual benefit of residents and local food suppliers. 

On a Friday afternoon, the local seafood truck, a local Fruit & Veg truck and now a coffee van visit the village. This activity has created for the residents the opportunity to gather socially (social distanced of course), support local business and maintain their sense of community.

They have also run a Better Together campaign where residents are able to request or identify other residents in the community that may benefit from some help or just a kind thought.  

It really showcases the benefits of living in small communities where neighbours still help neighbours.

See the picture – a resident had been away nine weeks having medical treatment and upon return, one of their amazingly talented residents created the beautiful Welcome Home card, taking it around to be signed by sanitised hands across the village and delivered to her door along with these cheery balloons.  

This time in suburban Queensland, the team at Wesley Missions’ Wheller on the Park have been putting in place many activities to keep their community engaged.

Balcony exercises, pavement line dancing, a roaming poet, ladies’ choir sing-a-long, a musical duo – these all perform at various locations around the village. They also had a special appearance from Brisbane Jazz Club and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.  Watch the video here.

The effort and creativity that is being displayed around the country is absolutely heart-warming – there is certainly no shortage of ideas.