Regents Garden is a retirement living and residential aged care provider in Western Australia with a passion for making quality of life a priority. They do this by setting the benchmark in elegant and world-class facilities, and by striving to bring happiness to residents, staff and the community. Every day, they work to lessen the causes of their resident’s physical and mental discomfort and make their everyday lives as happy as possible.
At the end of the day, Regents Garden’s mission is a simple one – it’s making a difference.
The organisation, which began in 2003, is comprised of four aged care facilities with 364 beds – the latest of which was introduced this month. It also includes 62 independent living units with another 80 in the planning stages. All facilities set a new standard of residential aged care and retirement living with stylish, resort-style homes.
Salin Lee, CEO of Regents Garden, has a background as an architect and has evolved the group over his long-term involvement in the aged care industry. Lee designed his first nursing home in 1973, at a time when he says residential care was considered an extension of hospital care.
“In reality, residential care is much more than that,” he says. “It’s about people’s homes, and how they live day to day. Being old is very different than being sick. Regents Garden is set up to ensure that there is an alternative way of thinking. Instead of thinking about it from a clinical perspective, we try to incorporate the lifestyle of old people.”
Since that time, Lee has designed many more nursing homes and retirement villages. Originally, he had no intention of running one, but twenty-five years ago he became a silent partner of a development. “Even then, my involvement was on the understanding that this kind of business should be committed to care and improve quality of life for the residents.”
According to General Manager Yvonne Ayre, that philosophy has applied to Regents Garden since its inception, and in the years since its debut the business has never deviated from that. “The general basis is that if you care for people and you look after people well, you have a good business,” she says.
“The whole group of Regents Garden is set up with that altruistic motive of actually caring and bringing benefits to the elderly,” adds Lee.
Regents Garden brings care to the elderly by serving two important functions. The first function is the provision of their facilities, which gives residents a physical space to live. “Basically what we are doing there is making them feel special,” Lee says of their spaces. “One of the characteristics of Regents Garden Group is we are committed to providing a first rate physical environment. Our residents see moving into residential care not as a step backwards in life, but as moving up the ladder to a better quality of life.”
The second and more important function of the group is the psychological stimulus they provide to their residents. “When they feel isolated or neglected, we want to be here to give them the care, the compassion, and the kindness they need,” Lee says.
Lee reiterates that their facilities – the latest of which is comparable to a five star hotel – are important, but it’s the care that really matters. “What we’re very proud of is the way we take care of our residents, and how we respect them.”
Culture of caring
Regents Garden is also committed to their staff. Approximately 350 people work under the Regents Garden banner, including their admin, maintenance and hospitality staff, as well as their nurses and carers. As a whole, Regents Garden has some of the highest staff satisfaction numbers in the industry.
“We realized early on that with the type of 24-hour business we run, it’s not possible to have a supervisory system,” Lee explains. “We knew early on that if we wanted to make this work, it could not be a person-dependent kind of structure. We had to develop a culture of caring and a culture of professionalism. And that’s what we’re working on all the time.”
Everyone within Regents Garden is there because they want to do something that makes a difference. “We want to bring something to the world rather than just take stuff from the world,” Lee says. “We’re not related to any religion but we believe in the basic human value of kindness. When we recruit, we look at people with that kind of attitude first, instead of just skill.”
The two principles their culture is based around – caring and professionalism – factor into everything Regents Garden does. “I, frankly, don’t find that to be contradictory to a good business practice,” Lee says. “It’s compatible. In fact, that kindness and compassion is what makes the business worth doing. We have to be positive and compassionate people that respect that our residents have entrusted their lives to us.”
All that said, Regents Garden has to provide that service in a commercially viable and financially disciplined way, or they wouldn’t be able to provide it all. However, Lee says, they always look at kindness and compassion before their bottom line.
People’s expectations of what they will receive from aged care have steadily risen over the years, explains Yvonne. That is a challenge for some organisations, but not Regents Garden. “It’s always our goal to exceed those expectations, not just meet them,” she says.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, another challenge is contending with negative views of aged care. Lee cites a government study that posits 95 per cent of Australians would prefer to stay at home, rather than go into aged care.
“I think that statistic is wrong,” he says. “I don’t believe it’s 95 per cent. I think it’s 100 per cent. But when they have to move out, that’s where we come in. At that time, they shouldn’t be feeling abandoned, they should be looking forward to enjoying life.”
Regents Garden has been incredibly successful at overcoming that negative perception. The organisation frequently attracts still-healthy people to visit their facilities, and when those people leave they often say ‘I wish we could book a room right now.’ Lee believes they are only half-joking.
“Old people who come to us because they’ve heard about us or read about us don’t have to be that fearful,” he says. “Knowing that there is a facility like Regents Garden out there, getting old becomes less scary. It’s something to look forward to.”
One of the goals for Regents Garden moving forward is to influence the industry. When they first built their facilities, Lee recalls other providers thinking they were crazy for going as far above and beyond as they did – and then charging what they did.
“We are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the most expensive home here in Perth,” he says. “Our prices are very average, to the annoyance of many other providers.”
“We try to inspire the industry,” he continues. “We try to show it that if you get back to the basics of the business, and know your product – which is really kindness and care – that you can do it. And you can do it nicely like this, and you could even spend the way we spend and still make a surplus. Staff will stay longer, people will be happier, so it makes good business sense.”
When it comes to helping other providers, Lee says that Regents is very open – and more than willing to let people see what it is they do, and offer assistance to other organisations looking to do the same. “We’re hoping that other providers see what we do, and instead of being jealous, be inspired.”
As far as growth goes, Lee estimates that the group will build one more home and that will be it. His goal has never been to be the biggest in terms of size. He wants to stay at a size where he can ensure the quality of their facilities and care. He likes knowing every staff member by name, and likes knowing that every staff member knows every resident.
“Raising cattle is very different than raising a thoroughbred,” he says. “And I don’t think you should look at this industry in terms of raising cattle. It’s about people. You really have to have the care. We like to think we’re raising thoroughbreds here.”