It’s no secret that the world at large is ageing. In most developed nations, there is a continuous increase of older populations, a fact which has led to a variety of new trends and a reinforcement of several industries. One of those is the retirement villages sector. More and more older people make the conscious choice of joining one of New Zealand’s retirement village and becoming part of a wider community.
The influential voice of retirement villages
The Retirement Villages Association of New Zealand is deeply involved in the sector as it represents more than 95 percent of the registered retirement villages in the country by unit number. The association, which was formed in 1986, represents retirement village owners, managers, and developers as well as third-party individuals and organizations who are part of the supply chain. The RVA is entwined in every aspect of the industry, from government policies to education and training.
“We create a favorable climate in which retirement villages can flourish. Over the last five or six years, retirement villages have become an acceptable mainstream housing option for older people. So much so that, when I first started, maybe five percent of the over 65 population lived in retirement villages. Today, more than twelve percent does. Certainly the association has driven a lot of that acceptance by promoting the benefits of what retirement villages have to offer so that the media now regard it as an entirely logical housing option”, explains John Collyns, RVA’s Executive Director, about the work of the association.
Certifying trusted members
Retirement villages which wish to become members of the association have to fulfill certain criteria that ensures their eligibility. After all, the RVA name is highly trusted and receiving the association’s certification is a mark of excellence. According to John, members are strongly encouraged to display the certificate in a visible area where all visitors can see it. That way, potential residents are safe in knowing that the retirement village in question meets the rigorous standards of the association.
Each member has a different place in the RVA. Associate members, for instance, are the various companies who supply products and services to retirement villages and wish to become a part of the association to enjoy its range of benefits. Before a retirement village can become a fully-fledged member of the association, it enters in a provisional status first. It is only when the mandatory audit has been completed that a village can become a full member, provided that the audit has been successful.
The one thing that each member has in common is the range of benefits provided by the association.
“We provide a huge range of information and services. When somebody gets in a strife, we have a complaints management process for residents and their families. We have a mentoring committee which helps people who get into a strife. We’ve got a range of discounts and benefits supplied by the associate members. We also have seminars, regular forums, and an annual conference that also provides several networking opportunities”, says John.
Educating and training all personnel
As the most powerful voice of the retirement village sector, the RVA does not rest on its laurels. Starting with the basics, it provides training in a variety of levels. For instance, any person that interacts with the residents of a retirement village community receives basic training to understand the complaints management system, to understand and respect the privacy of the residents, the structure, layout, and performance of the villages, and a lot more.
Educating people about the retirement village industry is hugely important for the RVA. A newsletter exclusive to members of the association provides regular updates and information about the sector. Online seminars, which represent the association’s involvement in new technologies, offer additional opportunities for education. Regularly-held forums inform interested parties in matters of finance, security, policy, and more. The annual conference is also an extremely important event as it includes ample opportunities for networking as well as exchanging vital pieces of information between members and associate partners.
Unique offerings for unique residents
Something important to note here every village is different. The RVA is keen to explain that to any potential resident and in fact encourages them to visit a number of different locations in order to find one that’s best suited to their own needs. As John says, demand currently exceeds supply so the industry is not as competitive as it might be in the future. As it currently stands, any older person interested in moving into a retirement community has a wide range of options available. The association’s work has also ensured that anyone interested in retirement villages can also rest easy knowing that they will have access to every amenity and service that they would require.
Despite individual differences in retirement villages, every member stands to benefit from the association’s work and that includes both the residents and the owners of the communities. For instance, the RVA has been working hard to change the Rates Rebate Act so that it can include residents of the villages. As it stands right now, residents are not eligible for rebates which means that they are potentially losing a lot of money. John explained that the RVA has been successful in demanding these changes so current and future residents may soon be able to request rate rebates.
The supporting side of technology
Technology is another element that has impacted the association and the retirement villages in more ways than one. The RVA has been fairly quick to adapt to new technologies with the aforementioned webinars, email newsletters, and a presence in social media. However, the influence of technology is more noticeable in the retirement villages themselves. For instance, John commented that remote assistance and care is a growing area which can potentially change the way that care facilities are implemented in retirement communities. Technological advancements allow doctors to monitor a person’s vitals remotely so the need for on-site monitoring is largely negated.
“In the longer term, we’ll see a lot more retirement villages which already have aged care facilities doing much more outreach for more general medical services rather than just geriatric care, particularly in rural areas. General health services which allow people to get check-ups done without driving to the doctor who could be an hour’s drive away and we are very keen to encourage that”, John says.
Growing and improving in every area
While staying on top of an evolving industry is tough work, the RVA has done a stellar job thus far. Looking to the future, the association will continue focusing on similar areas where it’s heavily invested in, such as the promotion of the retirement village sector’s interests and the education of its members. There’s always room for improvement across the board. For instance, changes in policy and technology keep the association on its toes as it always has to be up-to-date with the latest developments.
After all, the RVA is influential enough to drive trends in the industry or at least promote them. In the case of care in retirement villages, for instance, the association voices its opinion that general medical care is of utmost importance. In turn, its member-communities know that the trend is viable and feasible as long as it’s recommended by the RVA. And as for the association itself, John says that revenue is one of the areas which needs some work.
“We are looking for ways to expand the revenue flow of the association so it’s less dependent on subscriptions and the like. We see education and training as a crucial part of that”
As the industry of retirement villages continues to grow, the association closely follows. Thankfully for current and future residents, the RVA is passionate about their work so it will continue to seek improvements in the sector wherever possible.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Retirement Villages Association of New Zealand
WHAT: A voluntary industry association representing more than 95 percent of the registered retirement villages industry.
WHERE: Level 11, Petherick Tower, 38 – 42 Waring Taylor St, Wellington