It's all in the name
Language makes a difference — what we call the people, places, and programs in the senior living industry paints a specific picture for residents and for the outside world. I know that Mather LifeWays is not the only organization in our industry that has made a conscious effort to rename certain areas, to reject terms that smack of institutionalism, and to address the real values and wishes of today's older adults.
We've even been inspired to create new language, as when we transformed “retirement” into “Repriorment™” to explain a forward-thinking solution to the evolving lifestyle priorities and desires of today's older adults.
Several years ago, Mather LifeWays stopped using the category name “Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC),” because it didn't reflect our vision or our experience, and our preliminary research found that consumers didn't like it. We even pursued some market research on the term, which confirmed that older adults and others weren't familiar with the term, and found it negative — the word “care” in particular implied a Continuing Care Retirement Community is for those who need care, not those who are still vital and engaged in life.
Armed with this research, Mather LifeWays believed it was important to the entire industry — and to potential future residents — for organizations to transition away from the CCRC name. So, in 2013, we approached LeadingAge with the idea of developing a new category name that all communities could consistently adopt, along with corresponding messaging that speaks to the next cohort of older adults (over the next 10+ years) in a way that will increase overall interest, engagement, and enrollment in CCRCs, while also reducing the average age at which people decide to move.
They were open to considering a change, so together we did some due diligence, and eventually embarked on what we called Project NameStorm. The NameStorm Task Force set out to identify a name that resonates with the next cohort of older adults in a meaningful way, reflects the lifestyle and attitudes of the next generation of potential residents, and expands the market's perception of the possibilities for a healthy and rewarding Repriorment. All of this was with the end goal of attracting more older adults to the CCRC concept.
The NameStorm Task Force included partner organizations that are experts in research, branding and marketing, and who were just as passionate as we were. Project NameStorm became a national effort that encompassed input from operators around the country, focus groups in seven regions, surveys of residents and prospective residents of CCRCs as well as the general public in all 50 states, and, ultimately, trademark attorneys.
The final result was announced on November 1 at LeadingAge 2015: CCRCs will be known as Life Plan Communities. This new terminology projects the image of today's older adults, with their evolving lifestyle priorities and attitudes. More than simply a rebranding exercise, the Life Plan Community name speaks to the idea that living and planning are central influences to the next generation of older adults. Additionally, “life” speaks to growth and new experiences, and the name change ultimately reflects that shift in attitude both for residents and for providers.
Mather LifeWays has already begun adopting Life Plan Community in our language and in our communities. We feel it better reflects our brand; it's an aspirational term that reflects who we are and who we want to attract.
This name change is a game-changer. Life Plan Community will revolutionize the way organizations in our industry represent themselves, and the way others perceive our communities. We at Mather LifeWays are eager to be early adopters and longtime proponents of the new name. We hope you'll join too and open up the conversation with even more older adults.
Brenda Schreiber is the Vice President of Marketing at Mather LifeWays and played an active role in Project NameStorm.