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Managing a Retirement Estate

Managing a retirement estate vs a general residential estate

Should older residents be treated differently?

By Zeenat Moosa Hassan

, |

Managing a retirement estate vs a general residential estate

Should older residents be treated differently?

By Zeenat Moosa Hassan

, |

3 min read

Retirement estates differ quite considerably in comparison to your average golf, equestrian and general lifestyle estates. The obvious distinction are the type of residents and amenities on offer, but what about the management?

According to Sue Smith, chief executive officer at Helderberg Retirement Village in Somerset West, Cape Town there should be no real difference.

‘I believe that regardless of the type of estate, all managers should have empathy and be able to handle the diverse personalities that make up any form of community living. The age of residents should not determine a specific management style,’ she says.

Instead, Smith suggests that the unique set of challenges each estate manager faces is likely to determine their management style. She goes on to explain the five biggest challenges she encounters as the manager of one of the biggest and most sought-after retirement estates in the Western Cape.

The right care

A big attraction of a retirement estate is frail care but having adequate care that caters for age-related ailments now, as well as those that may be required a few years from now is hard. The last two years, especially, has further tested the resolve of senior living communities, making the already challenging situation of ensuring residents health, happiness, and safety even worse.

Finding the right care for an uncertain future is a big problem. While it would be great to offer care for every possible illness and ailment, managers need to have the balance sheet at the back of their mind. ‘The running of such a facility is expensive and offsetting the offerings with the affordability of the service is a huge challenge,’ says Smith.

A delicate balancing act

Meeting the needs of every resident in an estate can be quite the challenge, especially when your overall aim is to create a harmonious environment for the majority.  ‘A challenge we often face is how to cater for those residents that want play areas for their grandchildren who come to visit for example or want their families to be able to access the residents swimming pools,’ explains Smith.

Although this would be a nice thing to do, management need be mindful that some residents in a retirement estate have specifically chosen to live there to for peace and quiet. In this situation, a good way to keep both sides happy is to get homeowners to vote on their preference. That way everyone feels that their views have been listened to.

Managing financial expectations

Maintaining round the clock security and frail care, as well other lifestyle-enhancing offerings costs money. In addition, unexpected things like a pandemic or loadshedding as well as general increases to the cost of living is likely to push up monthly levies.

‘As an estate manager, one of your key jobs is to help oversee the levy increases in such a way to counteract the shortfall in the increases in a residents retirement income. It is not easy, especially as many people start to eat into their retirement nest egg way before retirement and struggle to keep up with rising costs. Managers also need to be mindful that the options for additional income get fewer as the older residents get,’ she continues.

Knowing when to say no

Residents in a retirement estate tend to have a lot of free time on their hands which isn’t necessarily a good thing for management.

Often residents are retired captains of industry who previously ran businesses and want to share this experience with management. Balancing the expectations of those who believe that they know more and think that they can do everything on the estate better can be very tricky. A good way to solve this issue is to suggest these members become non-executive board members.

‘Even then, managers of retirement will still have the odd expert who has hours of free time and wants to volunteer for committee work, not understanding the meaning of being a non-executive member of the board,’ says Smith.

Being able to clearly identify the role and responsibilities of a manager versus the resident is important, as is being able to push back and say no to overly helpful residents.

Being sensitive during tough times

Dealing with sensitive issues like end-of-life care is probably more of a regular occurrence for managers of a retirement estate than anywhere else.

‘Being there for family members and to help them understand when it is time for their mom, dad or grandparent to move from their home into a frail care or assisted living apartment can be quite difficult and definitely requires a degree of tact and compassion,’ concludes Smith.

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