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Is Retirement Now A Bad Word?

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By Steve Moran

I am a writer and as such I am totally onboard with the idea that words and terms are important. I also know that I have to produce 1,500 - 4,000 words each week and that no writer can drive themselves crazy picking exactly the right word in every single sentence.

But . . .

Producing articles that are by their very nature going to be stale in a day or two is very different than brand messaging, where once you pick a term or a phrase you will have to live with it for years, if not forever.  

In our industry we struggle mightily with this issue, the most recent example is the effort by LeadingAge and other organizations to ditch CCRC in favor of Life Plan Communities. The struggle is that we have lots of terms we know we don’t like; terms that we think resonate badly with the public, but we struggle with what the right words, terms and phrases should be.

The Big Goal

The big goal, of course, is to communicate clearly our message and to create a positive impression for senior living in the eyes of the general public and in the eyes of consumers. It is right and good and why in my writing I have shifted from Senior Housing or Seniors Housing (I hate it with the “s”), while I know it is grammatically correct, it sounds so awkward compared to Senior Living, which I believe more accurately describes what we are doing.

The Word Retirement

There seems to be a sense that the word “retirement” should go on the trash heap along with “facility” (although facility still seems to be ok when talking about nursing homes or skilled nursing, and those two terms create a another term duel).  I am not so sure we have this right.     


TWO STORIES TO THINK ABOUT

From a Life Plan Community Resident Perspective

In response to the recent article, LeadingAge Moves to Kill The Term CCRC, a resident responded with this:

The problem has been that VERY FEW folks who are not already actively looking for a CCRC have ANY idea what the name “CCRC” stands for. Not what words the letters in the acronym actually represent . . . nor what they mean in real life. Does “CCRC” need to be changed? Absolutely! 100%! Is “Life Plan Community” the answer? I don’t believe so.

I am coming to this conclusion from two perspectives.

Although I am 90% retired (at age 77), I have been a national marketing consultant for the past 25 years helping major Fortune 500 companies market to folks 50 and over. So I am familiar with the territory. At the same time, my wife and I a while back decided that we should move into a CCRC, and we became new residents of one in Florida a month ago. So I am seeing this from a very-close-to-the-ground consumer's viewpoint.

As we explained where we were going to our friends back home, almost none knew what a CCRC was . . . and many of those who had even an inkling thought it was nursing care. What put them on the road to actually understanding was when we said we were going to a CCRC Retirement Community. I know that is redundant, but it got the idea across, albeit without any details. I could then explain what the community's benefits were and -- finally -- what it was.

“Life Plan Community” is nicer than "CCRC" but it still doesn’t say anything to the uninitiated. It’s a solution that keeps the operator's happy because they already know what the community is. But it doesn’t speak to the actual consumers who will hopefully become prospective residents. The nomenclature problem will still exist and the wall will still be there.

My strong suggestion, assuming even that “Life Plan” is a good name's central focus, is to ADD the word “retirement” to it. Make it "Life Plan Retirement Community". And, just to double-check this thesis, I have spoken to a number of folks here at the CCRC where we presently live. All of those I have talked to are very active and reside on the independent living side. And all said absolutely include “Retirement”. “That’s what we are doing!” With that name, when a prospective resident tells their friends of their new choice, the friends will have an idea of what’s happening . . . and may even become interested themselves.

From a High School Classmate’s Facebook Page

After working 38 years as a nurse, I just gave my notice at work that my last day is January 5 . . . hanging up the scrubs. So I'm celebrating my announcement with a heavy chocolate blend! #‎Retirement #‎HowSweetItIs

Then the responses:

    • Wow! I am so envious! Enjoy!

    • Congratulations!

    • Over the moon for you, sweet friend!

    • Ah, the freedom!

The person retiring is barely 60 and and the responses are from people who are all in their 60s.

Redefining Retirement

I actually don’t have a particular feeling about adding retirement to Life Plan Community, but I do think we are prematurely banishing the word “Retirement” to the trash heap. I think the trick is to realize that for Boomers, in particular, retirement is not seen as the end of the road. It is seen as the next chapter or series of chapters in a person’s life.  

Chapters that represent new opportunities, to create, to learn and to live.  We have this unique opportunity to embrace this new view of retirement and say we can help you make it the very best time of your life.

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