Getting on Board with Life Plan Communities

Members | December 06, 2015 | by

Our monthly newsletter has a new name: Life Plan Community/Assisted Living Report.

There’s something different about this month’s CCRC/Assisted Living Report. Our monthly newsletter has a new name: Life Plan Community Report.

Over the next few months, you’ll notice similar changes in the communications you receive from LeadingAge. All LeadingAge newsletters, as well as the articles on our website, will begin using the name “Life Plan Community” to describe the organizations that we used to call “Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC).”

Just in case you missed the news, the LeadingAge NameStorm Task Force unveiled “Life Plan Community” as the new name for the CCRC category during the Opening Session of the 2015 Annual Meeting and EXPO in Boston on Nov. 1.

The changes that LeadingAge is making in its newsletters and on its website represent our own organizational commitment to “get on board” with the new Life Plan Community name.

I hope your organization will make the same commitment in the coming months.

A Host of Responses

I’ve spoken with and heard from many LeadingAge members since the Life Plan Community announcement last month. As you might expect, not all LeadingAge members feel the same way about the change.

Many LeadingAge members are strong supporters of the Life Plan Community name. These members view the new name as a welcome tool that promises to help them reach a new and expanded market of older consumers. They agree with the NameStorm Task Force’s position that the CCRC name simply doesn’t resonate with tomorrow’s older adults.

To be honest, some LeadingAge members don’t like the “Life Plan Community” name and have vowed not to use it. These members have invested a lot of time and money in educating consumers about what a CCRC is. They feel that they’re making progress, and they want to stay on that path.

Understandably, many LeadingAge members are willing to consider making the change to “Life Plan Communities,” but candidly admit that they’re not quite “there” yet. These organizations need some time to discern whether they want to change how they describe their communities. They’re supportive and intrigued, but they’re hesitant to lead this charge.

I understand and respect all of these positions.

The Need to Act Boldly

LeadingAge knew from the beginning that there wouldn’t be 100% agreement about the new Life Plan Community name—at least not right away.

We understand that a change of this magnitude isn’t easy. But we also believe that LeadingAge needed to be bold in proposing a solution to a pressing challenge that CCRCs have struggled with for many years: future consumers simply don’t like the CCRC name.

We listened to many of these consumers—people 65 and younger—during the NameStorm process. The vast majority of them—a whopping 84%—told us that they would prefer that our communities have a name other than CCRC.

Our future consumers clearly don’t feel good about moving to a place that offers “care.” Many of them equate CCRCs with assisted living communities and nursing homes.

Don’t get me wrong. Life Plan Communities are very good at providing care when it is needed. But care is not the only thing they provide—and it’s not the first thing on a consumer’s mind when he or she begins thinking about moving from the family home.

Instead, the younger consumers we’d like to attract to Life Plan Communities are looking forward to beginning a new and newly fulfilling stage in their lives. Instead of being “cared for,” they want to be in control. They expect businesses to respond to their wants and desires, not the other way around. They’ll be looking for a new home where they can flourish and grow, not one that makes them feel dependent and frail.

Continuing care retirement communities are actually already meeting all of these preferences. The problem is, not everyone knows that. And the CCRC name seems to be standing in the way of that knowledge.

An Evolution, Not a Revolution

Over the past few years, we’ve seen many organizations—including LeadingAge—re-evaluate the language they use to refer to themselves, their consumers, and their services.

Changing our language isn’t easy—and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an evolutionary process that will require all of us to be open to a gradual and unfolding process of change.

As Life Plan Communities, you’ll need to change your marketing materials and the way your staff members describe your organizations. Eventually, I hope we’ll see the Life Plan Community name popping up in resident contracts and state regulations.

But the change we’re talking about involves more than simply replacing one name with another. It’s also involves a willingness to look at your services through the eyes of the consumers who will visit your community in 2020 and beyond.

Adopting the “Life Plan Community” name is really about positioning yourself in the marketplace so that consumers won’t ignore your community altogether because they think it’s a “care setting” that they don’t need right now.

The Need for Change

The compelling consumer feedback we received during the NameStorm process convinces me that we need a new name that will help our terrific residential communities find greater appeal among future consumers.

Many CCRCs are already taking significant steps to update their communities and their programs to appeal to these consumers. Describing themselves as Life Plan Communities simply gives these organizations a way to take an additional step—indeed, a natural step—in that direction.