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Living life after retirement never looked so good
Michael Fallon, the Managing Director of Live Life, begins his description of Live Life Villages observing the fact that they are a bit unique, a different flavour, and are very happy to be in that position.
To best discuss what they do Michael included some of the significant members of their management team to provide a more robust understanding of their operations. He feels that the role that Kaye Smyth has, as Retirement Living Manager, in the running of the day to day business of the villages offers a unique perspective, equally as the involvement of Kent Fallon as the Development Manager and manager for both their Greenfield and Brownfield sites.
“We are a small Queensland based private operator of retirement villages,” says Michael. “Brookland, the oldest village we operate, is just over 25 years old, and in our present form Live Life Villages has only been in place for 5 or 6 years.” Prior to Michael’s involvement the Brookland village was operated by the National Seniors Association.
“They originally started it in Queensland 25 years ago and eventually decided that they wanted to focus on broader membership issues rather than continuing an involvement in the Retirement Village area. At that time I had been Company Secretary to the Village operator, and I found the opportunity to match some private investment with their desire to exit the business,” says Michael.
Live Life Villages has adopted the Queensland Bottle Tree for their logo as a symbol of their uniqueness, and the pride they take in doing things differently, more efficiently, through both the good times and bad. “Our choice of logo was deliberately chosen as it is unique to Queensland and it has an amazing sustainability system contained in it which allows it to resilient through drought and hard times, and then flourish in the good times. It really describes what we are about,” says Michael, but the definition comes from the whole team, each voicing what they think is important about this symbol. To add to this unique feature, Australian Living Legend Dawn Fraser AO, MBE is Live Life Village Ambassador and a very active member of the team who promotes our philosophy of the independent active lifestyle within both our villages and the wider community.
Brookland Village as seen today was completed in 1994, and boasts 125 units, but now operates under the Live Life banner. The Village is located in the southern suburbs; a short distance from Brisbane’s CBD and has the advantage of a generous green space within the village. There is ongoing refurbishment of the units and the village as a whole, in line with a master plan established in conjunction with leading Queensland architects, Riddle Architecture. Council development approval is already in place to redevelop the centre of the site with the addition of 90 units in a medium height apartment complex. “The current design is the traditional villa type village, and we are looking at replacing the central section, including the community centre to provide additional accommodation and facilities within a multi-level building. This will allow us have more than 200 live-in units, without losing the benefits of the current green space” says Michael.
Brookland Village was followed by the second village of Samford Grove located at in Brisbane’s outer north-west suburbs, but still within the city limits. This is a relatively new development with 27 units constructed so far. “On the site of the present village we are looking to expand it to about 106 units, and there maybe an extension on an adjoining block that will take that number up to 135 units,” he says. The goal is to maintain the character of the village, and develop the additional residential properties as independent living housing.
Maleny Grove, Live Life’s most recently created village, is located on the Blackall Range in Sunshine Coast hinterland and is designed in keeping with the environmental features of the area. “We actually have two parcels of land on which the retirement village will ultimately be. The first had already been approved for retirement village development for 45 units, plus a community centre,” he says. The land adjacent to, Live Life’s Greenfield site has been zoned for a residential subdivision, but application has been sought for rezoning to accommodate their plans for a second stage of their Maleny Grove development. This will allow them to extend the scope of the development to approximately 150 living units.
The idea that built a village
“The philosophy of Live Life Village’s is probably a bit different from other offerings out there,” says Michael. “Our difference is that we tend to have slight more land component per unit in our villages. For example, Brookland has the lowest density of units of villages in south-east Queensland providing larger green spaces for residents to enjoy.” He says this low population, large open spaces applies to all of their developments and development plans. “Maleny, when finished, will only have slightly less than 25 per cent coverage of the land, and major preservation efforts will be exercised to maintain green tracts.” Michael states that these are villages that are not at the connoisseur end, nor at the affordable housing retirement model, but a very happy place between the two.
“I see that there are three different segments in the retirement village market; one is what I describe as concierge type of village, where they offer everything, like a piano bar and the rest. At the other end is affordable housing, and we are in the middle occupying what we call the boutique type housing,” says Michael.
He says that one of the things that they have to face every day is the public perception of what aged care is verses the reality of what retirement villages are. “Our villages are not aged care but rather independent living units with supported services options for active lifestyle retirees”. Michael says that this is where they differ from the common perception. We provide independent living homes and communities and provide residents with the opportunity to take advantage of the Commonwealth funding for Aging in Place. We promote initiative by providing support services as the resident may need them,” he explains.
Retirees often enter villages with a desire to unburden themselves of some of the responsibilities of upkeep and maintenance that living in large family homes often requires. With these responsibilities removed, this often frees them to pursue a more active but relaxed retirement lifestyle and enjoy the benefits of the facilities provided within the village. “It also gives them more sense of community and opportunities for social interaction. Those are the main focuses of the early stages.” Later, he points out, concerns for their continued health may become apparent. The support services available to them can range from unit cleaning, meal catering, personal and medication administration support.
Supporting our residents
Kaye Smyth adds that with medication support they do not dispense the medication; rather Care Facilitators monitors the medication intake. “Our team goes further in general, we provide support for the physical, as well as the personal aspect. Our Care Facilitators monitor, support, and provide these additional services to residents as required to allow them to age in place; maintaining their independence for an extended period of time,” she said. “It is our belief that most people will be able to age in place in their retirement village home for the remainder of their lives. We do not see the same degree of need for people to move to aged care as was the case 20 years ago.” She adds that there are exceptions for this and says that advanced Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and extreme mobility needs will, of course, require specialised aged care that they cannot provide. “Even palliative care can co-ordinate by us should our residents’ require this service,” she says.
“One of the important technologies that they have implemented to make sure that their residents can contact the 24 hour personal emergency services that Live Life provides is the INS LifeGuard system. This system can alert staff to situations from falls to tap left running”, says Kent Fallon.
“We have implemented this technology in all of our new build and villages. We are also looking at ways to expand this service to include mobile phones and other devices in home, but right now, what INS provides for us is very important of our operations,” he says. “The personal emergency call button allows us to monitor residents while they are in their units and at locations around the village. In time, this will be expanded to when residents are out in the broader community.”
Kent says that Live Life are actively working with INS to identify how they can expand this service and develop new ones for their residents. He gives one example of how it is already used as a very smart non-intrusive way in order to passively keep an eye on their resident’s safety. “Utilising the INS technology that is built into our Maleny units, there is a switch on our hot water tanks that acts as a timer. If the hot water is running for more than 20 minutes, it will send off a signal to the emergency response system and a phone call is placed to the residents to see if they are in need of assistance,” says Kent. He says that resident falls are more likely in the bathroom, so systems like this is potentially lifesaving. He also believes this unitive is important as it cuts down the possibility of having to do spot checks and thus maintains the dignity and privacy of the residents in the villages.
The changing face of retirement
Many things have noticeably changed with the make-up of the ageing community, both Kaye and Michael said. While people 20 or 30 years could work in one industry for their whole working life and then retire at 65, they are now finding two things. Firstly, a couple of decades ago, post retirement, life continued expectancy was on average just 10 years, but now people could be looking at active living for another 20 or 30 years. The second change noted is people retiring before they really want to preferring to continue to remain in the workforce. Both predict that the mandatory retirement age will be raised in the near future. This means that the retirement accommodation industry was developed “for people who lived a few years beyond the average life expectancy,” and was not devoted to long term active living the way that Live Life Villages is.
“The life expectancy and the life style expectations of people over 65 has shifted dramatically over recent times. This is an evolution that we celebrate. At Brookland we have a 15 resident who are members of the Over-90’s-Club, and it’s great.” They also point to a study conducted in the United States that has shown that living in a retirement village could even possibly extend the average person’s life by an additional five years.
In the past men‘s life expectancy was not as high as women, but as the general population’s health improved so did their life expectancy improved. Men are now embracing retirement village lifestyle in record numbers and the industry is adapting. Kaye Smyth says that there are a couple of noticeable trends appearing. Single men entering the retirement communities are describing it as “man heaven” because they are still a bit of a minority commodity. The other is that males sometimes have a bit more difficulty participating in group activities. “Men are less adapted to socialising than women, so we cater to their interests as well. For example, we had two gentlemen who were very interested in aeroplanes, and we were able to link them up together so they could share their common interest. We found almost immediately that they started more functions and were more socially engaged,” says Kaye.
For the near future, Live Life Villages plan to grow the business but maintain its boutique qualities. “In the next five years I can see us operating a number of additional villages with an average of 150 to 200 units in each village,” says Michael. “We already have our next village site in place – and this again is strategically positioned as more of a boutique inner city village.” Michael sees that there are still plenty of opportunities to expand in Queensland, and believes that Live Life Villages has a lot to offer the retirement community there. Their message is certainly appealing. “Our aim is to respect the dignity of the resident by allowing them to maintain an independent lifestyle with support where needed from us. We do this in an environment that promotes an active, Queensland retirement lifestyle and an opportunity to Live Life.