Providing the strength of independence and the shade of relaxation
Marco De Pasquale co-Director of Oak Tree Group says that every stage of their project has been carefully selected. Even their name was arrived at after much debate and careful thought. He, himself comes from a marketing and advertising background, which after he started his own family, found to be a lifestyle much more suited to the unattached. He began looking at other opportunities, and the idea of creating retirement villages that were affordable and appealing was hit upon. “We looked particularly at the affordable end of retirement living, we saw an opportunity in the market. We saw that a lot of the retirement living products were really targeted to middle class Australia in terms of price point, but De Pasquale says that they did not want to name it after a particular region, or a family, because they always intended to expand. And expand they have.
Finding the right name
“We came up with name Oak Tree a number of years ago when we were first looking at the development of the company,” he explains. “It was one of my first assignments that I got, and coming from the advertising business I looked at what we wanted to offer and thought this idea is very interesting, but what do we call it?” Looking at other examples, he noticed that many other companies relied on imagery of life, community living and vitality. After doing his research, he came across the Eden Principles. “The Eden Principles talk about some of the issues that arise when you age – namely loneliness and helplessness. One of the things that they put forward was the idea that there should be some connection to a catalyst, something that means life itself. Things like plants, and animal life. Something people need to be around,” says De Pasquale. Coupling that with the idea that they were not going to be one of those big institutions, focused on paperwork, he came to the name of the Oak Tree. De Pasquale sees the Oak Tree as a symbol of continuance, life and wisdom. He believes that this imagery helps potential residents immediately understand what they are all about, and helps them focus on their own philosophy of care. “It also lets them know that this is an institution they can trust, so with the two ideas I think it came together well.“ He also thinks that a lot of what Oak Tree stands for can be found in their mission statements, these, he says, are not just clever marketing but guiding principles that they strive to achieve. “As community providers, Oak Tree is an innovative team dedicated to understanding and attending to the needs of our seniors. We consciously endeavour to support and nurture our residents by providing affordable living environments and support structures which contribute to happy, healthy and independent retirements.”
De Pasquale describes that one of their advantages and one of the reasons that they have had such success is that they are Australia’s leading provider of affordable retirement living. He stresses the affordable part. “What you have to understand is that what we offer is more of a boutique style organisation, and this is not about the price point, but the size. If you look at an average sized village they are about 150 units, everyone markets them in a different way.” De Pasquale says that their villas are made up of 50-80 separate units, and it is through this fact that Oak Tree Group is able to maintain a really homey feeling. This has also allowed them to expand their services into several villages, rather than a few. These Villages are located all over Australia. In Queensland they are represented by Goodna, Boronia Heights, Cairns, Yeppoon, Park Avenue, and Warwick. Victoria has Skye, and Tasmania has Kingston. New South Wales boasts villages in Cardiff, Orange Armidale, and Inverell.
“The size we keep them in lets a real feeling of community be formed as well as letting them be more cost effective and manageable,” the amount of resentences they have spread out over a wide area of land presents its own challenges, he says, “But we are pretty well travelled, and have a great head office structure, people, and technology today makes this job easier.” Being able to break down the barriers of distance has allowed them to maintain the size that they feel comfortable with. He does not dismiss the possibility of opening larger villages in the future, in fact he says that some with 100 units are already on the books. “What we find with this size is that it really appeals to some people, some of them have come from the larger villages, and they want something with just a little bit more of a community feel to it,” says De Pasquale.
Making communities, working with communities and lending a hand
With the recent flood, they have first made sure their residents are safe, and they are also looking at ways to reach out to the community. In the past they were able to offer temporary housing to people during the fires in Victoria, but this year their ability to help those in need has been limited because of their success. “We just don’t have the available product this year; the last 18 months have been very busy for us in terms of sales. We just don’t have the room to offer.” What they have done, is put together an appeal to residents, staff and family. “What we have done is create a charitable fund, this fund has gone to Alzheimer’s and other causes before, and the company will match dollar for dollar any funds donated into it.” Not only do they build communities- but they build communities within communities.
Success in the plan
One of the major influences on their success has been their idea of what retirement living means to those considering one of their villages. De Pasquale says that maintaining a real community feel is one of the important features, the other is creating a feeling of independence. Though there may be health concerns and issues of safety, Oak Tree Group strives to allow every individual resident the ability and resources to maintain themselves in the lifestyle of their choosing. It is through these aspects that Oak Tree and De Pasquale have successfully created environments that the everyday Australian can afford, and enjoy living at in their retirement years.