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The Living Document Every Retirement Village Needs 

Struggling to keep your village on course? Understand how an Operating Plan can help you manage day-to-day operations, fulfill promises made in your sales material, and set your village up to deliver on your commitment to residents.

What’s in your Operating Plan?  

Sounds like a simple enough question. Can you answer it though?  

The reason I ask is because I’ve been reflecting on my time in the sector. Many years ago, when I first started working with some of the leading minds in the retirement village sector, they were great advocates for every village having a single source of truth with regards to the operation of a retirement village. 

The document they referred to was your Operating Plan. 

This document serves as your ‘true north’ with regards to the day-to-day management of your retirement village.  

An Operating Plan sets out how you will operationalise your requirements under the Retirement Villages Act and the commitments made to residents under your Agreement with them. Importantly, it sets out how you will deliver on the promises made in your sales material. For new villages, it might also set out how you will manage defects – which can be community killers. 

These are documents are a great way to address the age-old comment of “our village is different from others.” It allows you articulate what this means and set out how you operationalise your differences. 

But setting your true north in a document, it gives you a point of reference for when you feel yourself getting off course or having to make difficult business decisions. 

Now, this isn’t to say that these documents are designed to ‘set and forget’. They can change. They should change.  

As I look back on the first Operating Plans, I prepared more than two decades ago, it is interesting to reflect on how what we deliver as Village Professionals has changed. We now talk more about how we facilitate the aging process, and support residents in their home as they age. We talk more about how we either facilitate access to or provide care. We now talk about how important engagement is and reducing social isolation. 

As a management tool, this document should be reviewed as regularly as you review your budgets. 

A mentor of mine used to call this document the Village Bible. A document you can use to develop new staff and refer to with residents. A document you can leave behind for someone to pick up, as well as a document you can monitor over time to see how things have changed in your village. 

Do you have an Operating Plan in your tool kit? If you don’t, reach out. It could be an exercise that shapes the future direction of your village, and of the resident experience you intend to deliver on. 

James Wiltshire 

Executive Director, DCM Institute 

James is a seasoned executive with more than two-decades experience in the retirement and seniors living sector. 

Throughout his career, James has demonstrated a deep commitment to a resident-focused approach, working tirelessly to establish, improve, and transform retirement communities for some of Australia’s top owners and operators. 

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