“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet,” says Juliet in Act II, Scene II of Romeo and Juliet. It’s true, but words and names do influence our feelings, and many of today’s seniors have less-than-positive associations with the term continuing care retirement community.

The aging Baby Boomer population would often voice a common refrain that the term made them think of octogenarians playing shuffleboard, or worse, elderly people sitting around staring at each other, withering away while waiting for the Grim Reaper. Today’s seniors often don’t perceive themselves as “old folks,” so why would they even consider a move to a continuing care retirement community?

Well, the people have spoken, and the industry has listened. Two years ago, a task force called Project NameStorm was assembled, a joint project of LeadingAge and Mather LifeWays, two senior advocacy groups. This task force was charged with creating a new, more appealing name for the “continuing care retirement community” (CCRC), as well as messaging that would resonate with the industry’s current target audience: Baby Boomers.

Life Plan Communities

Project NameStorm recognized that the Boomers have been doing things differently their entire lives, and that is carrying over into their retirement years. Gone are the days when prospective CCRC residents desired a formal dining room (sport jacket required) and Bridge on Tuesdays. The Boomer generation is enticed by the likes of wine-tastings, salsa dancing classes, locally sourced food prepared by gourmet chefs. The CCRC industry needed to evolve with this changing market, tailoring their message and their services to today’s active older adults who will be considering senior living options during the next decade, ideally encouraging these prospects to enter retirement communities at a younger age.

After two years of work, conducting extensive research and engaging in in-depth conversation, the Project NameStorm task force landed on a new term that more-accurately represents the future of the category (drum roll please)…life plan community.

So what exactly is a life plan community? The key elements that define the term include communities for older adults that:

  • Offer multiple levels of care on a single campus
  • Focus on an active lifestyle for residents
  • Are integrated into the surrounding community, emphasizing giving back and being socially responsible

But this new industry name is more than mere semantics. This evolution of the terminology–from continuing care retirement community, or CCRC, to life plan community–emphasizes a crucial shift in the industry from passive care to more active living and planning—a move that appeals to today’s younger, healthier seniors.

This metamorphosis of the industry nomenclature represents an exciting time, both for seniors who are considering their retirement options, and for an industry that needed to turn over a new leaf to address the desires of a changing target market.

Accepted or Rejected?

Whether or not the name Life Plan Community will really take hold within the industry as a replacement for Continuing Care Retirement Community is yet to be seen. I have heard comments on both sides but my sense is that most within the industry are embracing it. Some providers may fear that the name Life Plan Community implies that the community is doing your planning for you. This, of course, is not the case. Others may feel that the name is too similar to Life Care Community, which is actually the name for a specific type of residency contract offered by some providers.

An article by Howard Gleckman of Forbes Magazine even suggests that the name is misleading; that it fosters the denial that we may all require care at some point.  But I struggle to draw the same conclusion. The reality is that those who choose to live in such a community are not in denial. Quite the opposite is true because they are actually planning ahead for tomorrow’s needs. It could be argued that denial is a bigger issue among those who choose to stay in their own homes, even when it may not be the best choice for the long-term.

All perceptions aside, the proposed new name certainly rolls off the tongue much easier than the old one. If nothing else it fits easier on a website or mailer. I guess time will tell.

Learn more about Project NameStorm and the reasons behind the CCRC industry’s “rebranding.”

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