Latest industry developments

85-year-old female village resident discovers ‘new love’ in Africa – do you understand the ‘Dignity of Risk’ responsibilities?

What would you do in this situation? One of your residents, an 85-year-old single woman who you believe is of sound mind, discovers ‘new love’ online with a 21-year-old African man (in Africa).

She decides she is going to fly over to Africa and you know that she has access to over $100,000 in her bank account.

What is your responsibility? Do you ‘let her go’?

I attended the Mornington Peninsula Regional Meet of Village Managers last week (40+ Village Managers were there), and one ‘Street Talk’ item that was raised was understanding the concept of Dignity of Risk and responsibilities.

This 85-year-old woman was a real life example given by one Village Manager – and the new laws and regulations mean that the village management cannot interfere. This is the principle of ‘dignity of risk’ – meaning, no matter what our age, if we want to engage in risky endeavours then it is our right to do so unimpeded.

So the 85-year-old did fly to Africa – and she has never been seen or heard of again. (We did not learn about what happened to the money!)

What is the law

What is the responsibility of the Village Manager and Operator?

A whole range of different laws and regulations have emerged in the last couple of years, under state regulations, the Human Rights Commission and even in the aged care space with this week’s new Aged Care Quality Standards. This picture below summarises these new ‘rules’ (including home care).

If you are in a challenging position, uncertain on how to guide a resident, our advice would be to organise legal advice, because this is going to be a ‘grey’ area!

P.S. Africa happens a lot – watch this unrelated telecast.


Things to watch

Do you need a ‘contract ready reckoner’? Most probably ‘yes’

Picture this: you are the Village Manager with 80 homes and 120 residents. Each of them has a vague or real idea of their individual contract terms, and they think that you do too.

But chances are that, at best, you only have a vague idea – not a great place to be when conversations start.

In fact, for most villages that are older than 10 years, it would be very normal to have multiple versions of resident contracts in place.

Versions change because of changes in regulations but also because owners and salespeople change the ‘sales offer’ in difficult times to entice a new resident into the village, plus many other reasons.

And over the past 15 years (since before the GFC) many villages have had multiple operators with each HO introducing various changes to resident contracts.

Build some vision of your village with a contract ready reckoner

In my experience, it is great to be able to look out the office window and think “I have a good idea of all the contracts out there in the village I have to work with”.

To assist with your decision-making and compliance, it is a great idea to develop what I call a Contract Ready Reckoner. 

It is a simple document that identifies the various differing contract clauses that may be in place in the village. This document would likely include

  • A description of how you identify the contract type (could be year range, operator name, pre-stage 2, etc.)
  • Maintenance fee inclusions
  • Exit fee
  • Refurbishment charges
  • Remarketing fees
  • Administration fee
  • Valuation requirement
  • Refund payment/buy back timeframe

It can be a simple Word document or an Excel spreadsheet with each of these items as a column and a tick box.

It will become a handy tool for planning, budgeting, response to complaints, terminations and much more.

Invest the time – one hour a week

It does take a bit of time to assemble; you might want to allocate one hour a week, say on Friday, to just review five contracts. I suggest you start with the oldest. This process will take about six months, but you will be surprised and fascinated with what you find.

And it will give you a great sense of confidence when talking to your residents.

Please remember, regardless of these facts and descriptions in the contract, the Retirement Village Act will override any clause if it is for the betterment of the resident.


Key things to help you everyday

Are we Community Managers or Facility Managers, and which is more satisfying?

Travelling around the country delivering the Village Manager Professional Development Program, I was asked by a program participant an interesting question that I didn’t have the total answer for.

You see she was relatively new into her role (around 9 months) and she described to me that she had been employed as the Community Manager.

She shared what excited her most about the role was the chance to give back, to make a difference, to facilitate information or activities to provide choices to residents to live “their best life”.

And her job description also had resident welfare and the building of community, but also the typical variety of responsibilities – from managing budgets to maintaining assets. 

Where is the time for ‘community’?

Yet now she has been in the role some months she is finding that she rarely has time to focus on these very aspects of community building that excited her so much. 

She feels she has become a Facility Manager. She asked me: how do I find time for the residents?

I guess there are two aspects to this in my experience.

The first is that even by coordinating the maintenance, garden, budgeting and cleaning etc, she is still actively contributing to the service provision for residents that was promised to them.

However, secondly, it is up to her to prioritise these functions to create time for community building.

Start small

My advice is to start small. Remember, an ‘event’ only requires two people – that is two people achieving enjoyment out of interacting with each other (including you – who is equally important).

I recommended:

  • Make a list of the easy things that you can do that are ‘building blocks’ to creating and maintaining community
  • Place the easier ones that take the least time at the top
  • Check the activities calendar for holes or things that are already being addressed
  • Check if there are any obvious volunteers in the village that you can rely on

Now allocate even just one hour a week to your list – and I have found it is good to alternate the activities. Here are some suggestions:

  • Conduct two resident check-in discussions
  • Visiting a resident that may have experienced a life changing incident recently
  • Attend a resident function
  • Research and communicate activities occurring in the local community
  • Plan a social event or activity
  • Organise a guest speaker of interest

I guess the message is that, just like allocating time to the compliance and service provision role of being a Village Manager, we need to make a conscious effort to allocate specific time to the building of ‘community’.

This is time allocated for us – making sure we get fulfilment out of our role; because it is a 100% certainty that the village residents will greatly benefit from our positive enthusiasm to contribute to their ‘community’.

After all, we are not facility managers – we are community builders.