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.
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
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.
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!
Our research indicates that nearly all village managers regularly struggle with not having enough time! (I would imagine this is no truer than now as we navigate the varying stages of the pandemic).
This isn’t necessarily because we are inefficient or lack time management skills.
In my experience it’s more likely the complexity of the role, the often-reactionary environment, the limited access to operational tools and the unpredictable incidents and events that occur almost daily that are responsible.
The strategies needed to assist with time management are related more to operational efficiency and support. In my experience, one of the most important time management actions is to have TOOLS to save time.
When I’m talking about TOOLS, I’m talking about practical things such as:
Standard email responses
Village CRM – Village Master / Salesforce
Collaboration tools such as DropBox, Trello, Notion
Forms and templates
Data capture software
Community information go-to manuals
Site maps with utility outlets,
Daily, weekly, monthly checklists for all roles
Live Action Lists
I know these take time to set up but if you start with the thought of “Am I EVER likely to have to do this or respond in this manner again?” then save it as a template, document the process, schedule it in your calendar or create a checklist as you do it – I guarantee it will save you hours of time later!
And if you ask your team to do this as well it will be beneficial to all.