The Village Baxter is a multi-tiered retirement community dedicated to the care of older people residing on the Mornington Peninsula. The Village is situated on 75 acres of landscaped parkland, and provides accommodation and facilities for over 800 residents in a variety of independent units and apartments, in addition to their hostel and nursing home.
“We employ a true ‘ageing-in-place’ concept that has evolved over the years,” explains Stuart Shaw, CEO of the Village Baxter since 1986. “The village was always designed to have a three stage process with independent units, a hostel, and a nursing home to enable the seamless transition of residents to higher care facilities as their needs change. Since I’ve been here we have expanded the number of independent units in terms of range and style, a new state of the art nursing home of 60 beds has been built, and our hostel has been upgraded on a number of occasions. Currently the hostel is being extended and modernised to improve our overall facilities.”
Over the years, extensions to the community have included the addition of a dementia specific unit, the development of an adult day centre on site, and the establishment of services to the broader community throughout the region. The day centre and community based programs began in 1991, with one staff member servicing one client. Today, the Village Baxter provides over 1000 services per month to the community in addition to the 800-plus people they look after on site.
The Village’s day centre was established to provide respite care for families. “If you are the main carer for a person, we will care for that person during the day, which means that you – the normal carer – can go out and have a break from the 24 hour care of a loved one,” Shaw explains. That type of care and support is an example of the broader service delivery that other corporations may not have considered.
“We look at a whole range of services when considering the needs of our clients, off-site or on-site,” says Shaw, summarising the Village’s mission. “With our services, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are on the Peninsula, we are always prepared to try to meet the needs of the person.”
Other components of the Village include providing post-acute care programs for clients of all age groups for a number of public hospitals to facilitate better hospital discharge of patients, as well as providing services to veterans. In fact, the Village Baxter is one of the largest veterans’ service providers in Victoria – both on-site and off-site.
“We have been fairly creative to try to identify where the market is going,” says Shaw. “In 1991, I think a number of my staff thought I was losing the plot when I started moving the organisation down a community care line. My view was that our independent units were effectively going to become our hostel of the future, and our hostel would become another nursing home in the future as hostel residents would simply stay in their accommodation and age in place.”
“The independent units of the future were simply going to be where a person called home – be it in our units or where they were currently residing in suburbia,” he continues. “Our goal was to recognise this potential and learn how we could deliver services to people under such diverse accommodation options. Thankfully, 20 years on, Government policy continues down this line.”
Unique in many ways
The Village Baxter’s range of services is not the only aspect of the community that sets it apart – uniqueness is something they have in spades. It starts with something as simple as age. The village has had eight people becoming centenarians in the last 10 two months.
There is also the fact that they largely do not advertise, but their waiting list is extensive. For many units, clients may wait years for their preferred unit style. “Our ‘marketing sales force’ are our community care staff, because we have formed a relationship with our clients long before they ever need to come into our residential facilities,” Shaw explains.
“They know who we are as we have been providing service to them for years and they know our commitment to them,” he continues. “When the time comes and they consider making a decision on downsizing from their current accommodation, or if they have specialised care requirements, our staff have been out there looking after their needs for some time, so why wouldn’t they consider coming to us?”
When one person moves into the Village from an area, their neighbours often follow them, and that’s also unique. In some instances, Shaw says they have seen almost entire streets of people move into the Village once one of their neighbours relocates. Even more unique is how far people come. “We used to take more people into the Village from interstate and overseas than we did within ten kilometres of the Village. That’s how our reputation has spread. That word of mouth is just wonderful in terms of generating people to come to the Village and is a credit to our staff and residents.”
Another unique practice of the Village Baxter is their staff recruitment, which Shaw describes as values based recruitment. “In simple terms, if you come to us with a good heart, we will give you all the skills you need to do the job,” he says. This strategy has led to a very small staff turnover rate. They have 300 direct staff, and in the last 12 months Shaw says only six permanent staff have left, one to give birth and three of whom retired.
“We see ourselves as a community of people all trying to do the right thing and enrich people’s lives,” Shaw says. “That’s a very strong ethos for us.”
Among both their resident and staff population, Shaw says they now have sons and daughters of original staff members or residents working or living in the Village. There are also a number of staff members who move into the village after retirement, which is a testament to the environment they have been able to create.
The most important part of that environment, according to Shaw, is making the staff feel extremely valued. Their organisational chart is an upside down pyramid with Shaw at the bottom. “Everyone is more important than me,” he says. “My sole job is to make certain that those people directly above me in the organization have all the tools they need to do the job, and their job is to support our direct care staff who look after our residents.”
“If I don’t show up to work today the business will still go on,” he adds. “In that regard, I am somewhat irrelevant to the entire process. However, if a direct care staff worker doesn’t turn up today, then we need to ensure that our client will still continue to receive all of the care and attention to meet their needs.”
The community culture applies to residents and staff in equal measure, and is further bolstered by a number of smaller measures. “How do you foster team building and trust? Bring in an abseiling and climbing wall and encourage people to give it a go,” Shaw jokes. “This is for both staff and residents with the oldest participant being a lady aged 91!”
The Village Baxter also assists staff in financial difficulty, have a staff welfare fund, and there’s an initiative wherein Shaw pays staff members to give up smoking. “It is far better for a staff member to come and discuss any problems with us rather than simply worrying about the issue,” says Shaw. “If we can help then we will.”
The culture also extends to business partners, many of whom the Village has had a relationship extending over 30 years. Shaw says they subscribe to a “partner for life philosophy.” He says they communicate and work together to make sure their partners continue to make a reasonable profit while the Village Baxter still receives a good deal. The view is that together both parties can thrive through mutual benefit.
“The Village is a bit like a whirlpool,” Shaw summarises. “When people first come to the Village Baxter, they are on the edges of the pool, but through our philosophy and empowerment, they cannot help but get drawn into the centre, where it is very safe, very reassuring, very trusting, and something you wouldn’t choose to leave.”
Shaw can testify to that fact himself. He was originally asked to commit to three years, and he’s now on his 26th year. “The organization just has a culture that is so personally gratifying that you wouldn’t want to work anywhere else,” he says.
The village was built over 30 years ago, and Shaw says it was suitable for that time and place. Times have changed, however, and the Village Baxter has reacted to that by undergoing a period of regeneration and modernization, knocking down pre-existing units and putting up new ones. This has been an ongoing process and will conclude within the next 12 months.
“Then we’ll stop and pause,” Shaw says. “We have identified that our principle growth area will be in community based programs, and we need to just broaden our horizons. We will continue to provide community services within the retirement village and also within the larger community.”
That’s what they have been doing well for 20 years. As government policy continues to advance in that direction, the Village Baxter will continue to do that through developing creative approaches for future generations.
To find out more about the Village Baxter – including their address and phone number – visit http://www.villagebaxter.com/