The LeadingAge NameStorm Task Force unveiled “Life Plan Community” as the new name for the continuing care retirement community (CCRC) category during the Opening Session of the 2015 Annual Meeting and EXPO in Boston on Nov. 1.
“It became clear that the name CCRC no longer did an adequate job of creating the best perception among tomorrow’s older adults,” said LeadingAge President and CEO Larry Minnix. “At the core of the decision to move to a community is having the right plan for what the next stage of life has to offer. We feel the ‘Life Plan Community’ name encompasses that very well.”
The announcement comes after an extensive, 2-year process called “NameStorm,” which was led by LeadingAge and Mather LifeWays, a LeadingAge member in Evanston, IL, in partnership with Brooks Adams Research and 4 marketing firms: GlynnDevins, Love & Company, SB&A Integrated Marketing, and Varsity.
“We are pleased that the new name resonates with the current and next generation of older adults in a meaningful way, by fitting their lifestyles and attitudes,” said Mary Leary, president and CEO of Mather LifeWays. “We are looking forward to adopting the term in our communities.”
Consumers Want a New Name
The NameStorm process involved 3 distinct research initiatives designed to help determine how the CCRC name is perceived in the marketplace and how a new name might improve those perceptions. The NameStorm Task Force solicited extensive feedback from corporate and industry leaders, CCRC residents and prospects, and the general population through brainstorming sessions, surveys, and focus groups.
The research showed that 84% of future consumers—adults age 65 and younger—preferred a name other than CCRC, according to Jim Glynn, principal at GlynnDevins.
“The CCRC name is not doing a very good job of defining what these communities are all about,” says Glynn. “If you are doing something innovative and you want to be noticed, you want to make sure that people understand what you do. If you can’t make that clear, people aren’t going to find you.”
The research made a big impression on Liz Bush, senior vice president and director of senior marketing and sales at LCS. LCS is a LeadingAge Gold Partner that provides marketing and sales management services for 127 senior living communities nationwide.
“What I learned from the research was that ‘continuing care’ carried a negative connotation,” says Bush. “When your consumer speaks, you have to pay attention.”
Broadening the Definition
The second word in the CCRC acronym—care—posed the greatest barrier to consumer acceptance, according to Glynn.
“Care is a very important part of the product that we offer in these Life Plan Communities, but it is only one of the aspects and it’s not the initial aspect that people are looking at,” he says. “Consumers understand that someday they might need assistance, but in the meantime they want to enjoy life as much as they can.”
Maura Richards, senior director of marketing strategies at Asbury Communities, a LeadingAge member in Germantown, MD, has seen firsthand the confusion that the term “care” has created among the prospective residents she meets.
“When you talk about care in general, there is a huge confusion that CCRCs are more nursing-home oriented or that they are assisted living,” says Richards, who manages marketing strategies for 6 communities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma.
Typically, consumers looking at CCRCs conclude that they’re not ready for the care that the name implies, says Glynn.
“When you define a senior living community as a CCRC, you are defining it very tightly in a medical model,” he says. “I believe that those who adopt the new name will have a better chance at increasing market share over time, and will get more people willing to call to find out more.”
Appealing to Planners
Because typical CCRC consumers are planners by nature, it made perfect sense to incorporate the word “plan” into the new name, says Richards. She believes the new name “fits the people we want to tap.”
Harry Hobson, president and CEO of Plymouth Harbor, a single-site community and LeadingAge member in Sarasota, FL, hopes the new name will actually encourage more adults to do life planning at a younger age.
“When you talk about a life plan, you start to disassociate age from planning,” he says.
“You could almost see people saying at a younger age that there are a number things we want to be sure and do over the next couple of years,” continues Hobson. “Let’s sit down with our financial planner. Let’s make sure our will is up-to-date. And let’s go visit one of those Life Plan Communities so we can begin thinking about the future. It’s all part of life planning, not about being a certain age.”
Ready for the Changing Consumer
For Bush, the new Life Plan Community name is just one more step in an ongoing process to get ready for the aging of the baby boom generation.
Successful communities have been working hard over the past 10 years to update their communities and their programming to appeal to these new consumers, says Bush. Now, she says, “the name is catching up to reflect that.”
“I’m used to the name ‘CCRC,’” admits Bush. “I’m comfortable with it. However, my perspective isn’t what is important here. What is important is our market and our consumer. We need to speak in a language that resonates with our consumer.”
Getting on Board
Glynn is hopeful that LeadingAge members will take a leadership role in embracing the Life Plan Community name because it “defines more of what we are.” Richards, Hobson, and Bush are eager to do just that.
For example, Richards anticipates that Asbury will begin using the new name in 2016. The Life Plan Community name will dovetail nicely with Asbury’s “Anticipate More” tagline, she says.
“Our message will be ‘You can anticipate more at a Life Plan Community and these are the reasons why,’” says Richards.
Hobson says the Annual Meeting announcement “gives us the blessing to formally go out and move forward with this name change, which I’m excited about.” Bush encourages her LeadingAge colleagues to do the same.
“We can bemoan the fact that ‘continuing care retirement community’ is not popular with today’s market,” she says. “Or we can be part of a change that could really make a difference in what we do. I say, ‘Be bold.’ Let’s be the change that we want to see.”
The next phase of NameStorm will include 3 initiatives:
- Encouraging widespread use of the new name among current CCRC operators.
- Offering tools and resources for operators interested in beginning a new conversation around the Life Plan Community name.
- Exploring how to change current usage of the CCRC name in state regulations, financial markets, rating agencies, and by institutional investors.
For more information, visit LifePlanCommunity.org.
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