Founded in 1970, Ararat Retirement Village has been providing the City of Ararat with quality aged care services for the area since that time. Robyn Woods-Gebler, the CEO of Ararat Retirement Village, explains that the not-for-profit organisation was founded by the community after they had identified that there was a real need for affordable housing for their aged population. Woods-Gebler has been with the organisation since 2005, after 30 years as a critical care and emergency nurse.
Aging in the right place
“Independent living is co-located with a residential care facility. This means that people don’t have to move again,” reports Woods-Gebler.
“When individuals come into the village they are still able to live independently. As time moves on, and they might need more services, they can have those services delivered into the units.” As the requirements for assisted living increase, residents can either continue to receive care in their own home or move to the long term care facility located on site. This means the minimum of upheaval in their lives.
“Because we provide for our residents the ability to age in place, they don’t have to move on to any other place again. It is a one stop shop,” she explains.
With 38 independent living units and 60 beds, the Ararat Retirement Village has 70 staff members all working towards the common goal of providing excellent care for their residents. “Our people work mostly in the residential care facility with some cross over into the independent living units. Our staff are extremely skilled, competent and versatile.”
Small Business, Close Community
As a small business in a close-knit community, Ararat Retirement Village sees their corporate culture as reflecting that quality. “It is a very relaxed sort of establishment, because it is a small country town and everybody knows everybody,” says Woods-Gebler. “There are some residents from outside of the area, but they usually have relatives that live in the area. The resident themselves may have been living in Melbourne or other regions of Victoria – but they have family that have either always lived in Ararat, or they have moved here and are looking to bring their mum or dad closer to family.”
Staff members are local, or from the immediate area. Family and community are obviously very important to both residents and Ararat Retirement Village. “I, myself, live 60 kilometres away, and that’s really as far as any of us live. Most staff some from the town itself or its immediate surrounds,” she says.
Woods-Gebler sees Ararat Retirement Village as a vital part of Ararat the city, and its function is to serve the community. “The town itself has not really changed in the last ten years, population wise, but it has a larger portion of older people then it did,” she explains. “There are less younger people then there were, and that older population is going to continue to grow for the next 20 years.”
“The area hasn’t changed that much but the Ararat Retirement Village has changed immensely. 10 years ago we only had the hostel, and the aged-care facility only had 49 beds – now, after being completely rebuilt from scratch in 2004, we acquired 11 extra beds.”
“The whole model of care has changed completely in the last seven years,” she notes, pointing to their commitment to quality care. She also says that they have developed a focus on palliative care, and have admitted residents for this particular and sensitive service. “This is something I see expanding in the future,” she says.
Planning for the Future
Government regulations for health care and aged care are something that Ararat Retirement Village embraces, and, according to Woods-Gebler, they are a very positive thing. “What is the challenge are the community’s expectations, which are certainly changing. It is becoming more consumer driven, and the range of services that you need to have now are far different from what you needed ten years ago – even five years ago. All of these things need to be taken into account when you are running a facility,” she says.
The changes they have undergone at the facility are not the end of the game plan for Woods-Gebler and the Ararat Retirement Village. “It is going to be very interesting,” she says. “The future is going to provide a bunch of opportunities for us. We will be looking at what we can do, and we want to look at how we can do things a bit differently, and continue the trajectory of what we are doing now.” She hopes that proposed de-regulation of the industry will help along some of the ideas they hope to institute in the near future. “I think right now we need to be planning for the next 20 to 30 years, and not waiting for things to happen.”
“As a low care facility, we have been able to remain very flexible, we don’t need the registered nurses that the high-care facilities need, and obviously in a country town such as ours, finding highly qualified people is always going to be difficult,” says Woods-Gebler. “When the distinction between low and high care disappears in the next 12 months or so, we will probably have the same problems as the high-care facilities have had in acquiring enough registered nurses to cover shifts.”
She does not think this is an insurmountable problem – in fact, she thinks it’s a challenge they are ready for. “There is a fairly large pool of trained aged-care workers in Ararat itself, and we are training them ourselves as well.”
She also notes that the area also attracts new residents with its great location. “We have that potential for growth. We have a fair amount of land around us, and probably need to grow in order to remain viable with the changing funding models,” projects Woods-Gebler. “We may need to expand to another 50 per cent of what we are now in the future.”
Woods-Gebler also says that they are looking at environmental investments that the Ararat Retirement Village could make in the near future. “We are looking at costing solar panels and their installation. We know that they will be increasing in cost already and they will be costing more if we wait,” she says. They are also examining their water consumption, and finding ways to reduce it, while at the same time providing for their residents and the wonderful, and extensive gardens that are attached to the village. “Water storage tanks are one solution we have looked at,” she says.
“I would like to think that we would continue to provide even more of the continuum of care,” she says. “I think we could cover a few more options for people, and keep to our mission statement of providing affordable high-quality care.”