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Retirement villages: Long-stay hotels or aged-care facilities?
With increasing emphasis on the five-star facilities retirement villages have to offer, INsite considers the similarities between villages and hotels.
‘With all the luxuries of a five-star hotel, and a warm and friendly atmosphere, it’s no wonder our residents exclaim, “It’s the only place to be!”’
This is what potential residents will read when considering Ryman Healthcare’s Grace Joel Retirement Village. And they are unlikely to be disappointed. Among the facilities on offer are bars, lounges, an internet cafe, swimming pool, spa pool, hair and beauty salon, gym, library, bowling green... the list goes on. The little martini-glass icon used to denote the presence of a bar, the stick figure on the tread mill to indicate a gym and the other icons all seem vaguely reminiscent of a hotel brochure or website boasting what it has to offer its guests.
Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking you had entered a hotel or resort the first time you set foot in a modern retirement village. Like Grace Joel, many villages have a vast range of enticing facilities, immaculate grounds and carefully selected décor.
Many village residents agree. “It’s like living in a resort,” says a resident of Ocean Shores when asked about her experience of village life.
However, Graham Wilkinson, director of Retirement Assets Limited and the longest serving member of the Retirement Villages Association (RVA), dispels some of the myths about the similarities between the hotel and retirement village industries.
Wilkinson believes residents liken their retirement village home to a hotel because they feel like they are on holiday with relatively few concerns and all manner of activities and facilities available to them. “Practically speaking, however, most people choose to live in a retirement village for the security it offers.” Surveys conducted by the RVA confirm Wilkinson’s thinking: safety and security are consistently ranked as the main reasons people opt for a retirement village lifestyle, over and above the facilities on offer.
Wilkinson is well qualified to comment; he has a raft of experience acquiring and developing hotels, subdivisions, apartments and retirement villages.
From site selection and development through to management and end-user experience, Wilkinson says there are virtually no similarities between hotels and retirement villages.
When selecting a location for a retirement village, the purchaser is likely to be looking for large, suburban sites; meanwhile, hotels generally need to be in city centres or in easy reach of airports.
“You’re catering for two very different markets,” says Wilkinson. With retirement villages the emphasis is on long-term relationships, with residents investing a lot of money, time and energy in choosing to live there. With hotels, on the other hand, the focus is more on the short-term, with a constant turnover of customers.
Consideration of the brand is another key difference between the two, in Wilkinson’s eyes. While a retirement village might rely on branding to a certain degree to attract residents, people are unlikely to move too far away from their friends and family and their previous home. Although brand and reputation are important for a village, other factors - like location - will play a significant part in people’s decision to move there. For a hotel chain, it is critical to get the branding right as they are trying to target potential customers from all over the world.
That said, we are all aware that the baby boomers, with their accustomed tastes for the finer things in life, are looming over retirement villages. This is a generation familiar with hotels, a generation that expects five-star quality and service. It is not difficult to understand why retirement village operators try and deliver on this front.
Richard Dalman of Dalman Architecture in Christchurch, which has designed a number of retirement villages over the last three years, has noticed an increased demand for five-star hotel-standard village complexes. He believes baby boomers and subsequent generations will want the best of whatever defines a quality lifestyle at the time and this will need to be reflected in retirement villages.
It appears the increased expectations of the next wave of residents have led people to draw comparisons between hotels and retirement villages. So it comes as no surprise that a common assumption is that managing a hotel is on a par with managing a village. Certainly many recruitment advertisements for retirement village managers suggest that hotel management experience would be desirable. Advertisements often suggest, as this example does, that applicants should ideally have ‘a background in any of the following: managing serviced apartments; retirement village management; concierge; facilities’ management, including, managing hotels/motels or similar at a management level’.
While Wilkinson concedes there are some similarities in terms of skills, he believes managing a hotel is more challenging than managing a retirement village. A hotel manager is likely to have more departments to oversee and with a quick turnaround of clientele, and the importance of repeat custom, there is little margin for error.
Wilkinson’s opinion is clear: a retirement village is not simply a long-stay hotel. People do not stay at one for the same reasons they live at another. The respective sites for hotels and villages are developed in different ways and marketed to different audiences. The branding is different. They are not managed in the same way.
And that is not to forget the most significant difference of all – the aged healthcare offered by many retirement villages is perhaps a stark reminder that you are not in a hotel. Martin Taylor of NZACA says aged-care facilities are such an integral part of retirement villages that villages can be classified by the care they offer.
What retirement villages do have in common with hotels, however, is a desire to deliver top quality service and facilities to discerning customers.
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Because of concerns about the impact of branding that was seemingly unrealised, I carried out a study that compared the impact of different styles of resthomes on the culture and pratice of the staff: Robertson, L & Fitzgerald R. (2010) The conceptualisation of residential home environments: implications for occupational therapy. British Journal of Occupational Therapy 73(4) 170-177
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