Masonic Homes is a leading provider of living and lifestyle options for senior Australians. Their focus is on providing choice and value for their customers across all aspects of their business. Operating in South Australia and the Northern Territory, with a history that goes back over 50 years, Masonic Homes’ goal is to be well positioned to meet the future needs within the ever growing sector of retirement living.
While the first Masonic Homes development commenced in 1965, the genesis of the organisation as a whole goes back even further, to 1889. At that time, the Grand Lodge of South Australia was presented with 14 acres of land at Glenelg, for the purpose of erecting homes for indigent Masons. Later, in 1904, the land was purchased by the government. The proceeds of that sale went to constructing cottages, and in 1965 the Board of Benevolence of the Grand Lodge opened a development atSomertonParkwith 16 independent living units.
In the years since, Masonic Homes has evolved quite considerably, growing their operation to include residential care beds, community care packages, and therapy services. Recently, Masonic Homes announced the next stage of their evolution would be to return to their independent living roots. They have sold their community care and residential aged care businesses to ECH Inc., another premier South Australian aged care provider. Going forward, Masonic Homes’ focus will remain centred on their portfolio of retirement communities.
“It’s a strategic move,” says Doug Strain, CEO of Masonic Homes. “It’s about establishing the focus of our business. We were very broad and diverse in our offering, but we weren’t deep enough in any of those offerings to provide the proper scale of benefits.”
“We had to look at what we thought would provide us the best opportunity,” he adds. “We determined it would be operating larger retirement villages for the boomer’s parents, and we would facilitate them accessing services rather than being the service provider in our own right.”
According to Strain, the aged care industry as a whole is consolidating, and they wanted to be at the forefront of that movement. “It’s reading the tea leaves,” he says. “We determined that as a strong operator of residential and community care that it would be best if we linked up with another strong operator in ECH. Bringing two strong providers together at this time is better than, if in five years time, we looked at bringing two weak providers together.”
He reiterates that they are hoping to build a strong and enduring relationship with ECH Inc., and hopes to rely on them as one of their key service providers.
Connecting with individuals
Masonic Homes has roughly 1000 retirement units operating out of six principal seniors living communities, one of which is inDarwin, the others inSouth Australia. According to Strain, the unique selling point of their retirement communities is their generational focus.
“The bottom line is we’ve got a long experience with dealing with the frailer older group,” he says. “Were not talking about the baby boomer, we’re not talking about the lifestyle retiree. We’re looking at the parents of those baby boomers. They’re the ones we’ve always worked with.”
“I think a lot of retirement operators are trying to focus on the boomers, but the boomers are a unique generation,” he explains. “We’ve now got two generations in retirement – which is the first time in history that’s occurred.”
In today’s world, many people are retiring in their 50’s or early 60’s, and they still have living parents who retired 25 years prior. Masonic Homes’ target demographic is that older generation. Their aim is to relieve the younger generation of the burden of being carers themselves, allowing them the freedom to enjoy their own retirement.
Masonic Homes also stands apart in themarket due to the size of their sites, as well as the variety of their product offering. Residents can choose between one, two or three bedroom apartments and villas, and they have the option to age in their homes. “We very much connect with residents as individuals,” Strain says. “We support those people to remain independent, and hopefully many of them will avoid the need for hospitalization or to be admitted to a nursing home. We’ll be able to support them in their own homes.”
As a result of their consolidation, Strain says Masonic Homes will become the best option available to their target demographic. “We’re not going to be distracted by trying to be all things to all people,” he says. “We’ll have a clear focus on what we’re doing. We’re going to be the best operator of retirement villages in the focus we’ve identified.”
In order to best connect with residents, Masonic Homes has to have the right staff. Between their 1000 retirement units, Strain estimates they have about 60 staff. At Masonic Homes, a village’s staff is small, but built around a strong village manager.
That staff count does not include Masonic Homes’ current contractors. When it comes to them, Strain says Masonic Homes aims to form relationships where everyone benefits. “We look for best value,” he explains. “We’re looking for a relationship with all people that accepts there’s a relationship between quality and price. We want good quality at the right price. We want everyone to be a winner. It’s about win-win-win relationships.”
In addition to best value, Strain says they like to work with people who understand that the focus, ultimately, has to be their customer. “We want our customer to be at the centre of everything we do,” he says. “We want to treat them as individuals, and address their individual needs with a best value approach.”
In the medium-to-long-term future, Masonic Homes aims to be a national operator and grow exponentially larger. “In five years time, we’ll be somewhere in the order of 5000 retirement units and operating a network acrossAustraliaas a major player in retirement living for older Australians,” Strain predicts. “We’ll have active communities operating in – if not all, then most – states and territories acrossAustralia.”
Strain reiterates thatAustralia’s population of elderly people is always increasing. Instead of viewing that inescapable fact as a challenge, he views it as an opportunity. “Older people are an economic driver of this nation,” he concludes. “They’re not going to be a burden on the state, they’re going to be an opportunity for us to seize. Any company out there that’s not looking at the demographic shift and not seeing that as an opportunity is missing the boat.”