Over 200 delegates, exhibitors, and partners took over the Marriott Gold Coast Resort from 24–27 June for the Retirement Villages Association’s 2013 conference.

At the opening cocktail party, the local MP welcomed delegates; the following days were jam-packed with thought-provoking, stimulating sessions and opportunities to make and strengthen industry connections. MC Jim Hopkins, in his inimitable way, pulled all the strands together while keeping the programme on time and everyone’s energy levels high.

RVA President Margaret Owens opened Tuesday’s sessions with an overview of the industry, neatly leading into the first keynote speaker, Australian of the Year,

Ita Buttrose. Ita shared the insights she’s gained as Patron of the Alzheimer’s Association. The audience also enjoyed her anecdotes about working for the Packer and Murdoch publishing empires.

From there, the diverse programme traversed employment law, the economy, aged care contracts, using social media strategically, marketing, demographic and social trends and change, the political scene, insurance updates, and the formation of the new Retirement Living Council in Australia.

Some key highlights were Amanda Stevens’ session on marketing to women, which also provided some useful insights into men for all the women in the room!

We learned that 60 per cent of New Zealand start-ups are run by women, and a high proportion of these are older women – ‘the rise of the olderpreneur’ – and that women constitute 80–85 per cent of spending decision-makers. Jill Walker built on this with more detailed insights into marketing to mature audiences, and how to make your brand consistent and prominent. Bernard Salt explored the profile of future retiree demographics as the baby boomers age, and gave us some unforgettable new acronyms: for our industry, KIPPERs (Kids in Parents Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings) are a key challenge. Mike Williams provided invaluable political insight against a backdrop of Australian political leadership change almost as he spoke, which complemented Cameron Bagrie’s economic insights.

The speed-dating session proved both popular and useful again, as trade exhibitors honed their elevator pitches and focused on RVA members’ needs in the five minutes allotted to each speed date. The day after the conference closed, delegates had the option of attending an in-depth master-class with Amanda Stevens, followed by the customary village tour to a range of local Gold Coast retirement villages.

Outside formal sessions, delegates caught up with each other in the ANZ lounge, trawled the trade stands, honoured their industry’s growing Pioneer Club, enjoyed a superb formal dinner, danced their socks off to the Monroes, played some serious golf, or took a local tour.

Feedback forms featured comments such as “Some really, really AMAZING speakers this year – well done!” and “Speed dating sessions were fantastic; the leads obtained were genuine and of good quality.”

Conference presentations are available online at the RVA website.

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