Senior living operator Mather LifeWays and LeadingAge recently helped lead an initiative, in partnership with other industry marketing and research professionals, to find a new name for “continuing care retirement community.” Numerous discussions, focus groups and surveys led to the winner, “life plan community,” which was announced at LeadingAge’s annual meeting in November. Mary Leary, president and CEO of Mather LifeWays since 2002, recently answered some questions for Senior Editor Lois A. Bowers.

Q: What might you say to someone who expresses some trepidation about using the term life plan community?

A: I would suggest talking to the residents, sales team and other key team members. Review the research report and white paper where it highlights some key information that communicates the rationale and findings very well. [These documents are available at]

We recently received a letter from a resident at one of our communities. He shared that he understood the reason in changing the name from continuing care retirement community to life plan community. In fact, he shared that “life planning” is the way most residents prefer to think about it. And, of course, our lives may not even require continuing care. As the song goes, accentuate the positive.

I’d also tell them that the new term doesn’t replace what you are as an organization and what you stand for. It is a way to focus on what’s working today and speak to the consumers of tomorrow.

Q: In addition to a change in terminology for CCRC, in what other ways will senior living providers be changing to respond to the tastes, needs and wants of future residents?

A: Senior living providers already have begun to provide services and amenities that reflect the changing tastes and desires of future residents. The name change helps more accurately describe what, in many cases, already is being offered. That said, senior living is a dynamic industry, and I think we’ll continue to see an evolution toward greater integration within communities, with access to all that is offered, from cultural and educational opportunities, to coffee shops and public transportation. What boomers want, regardless of their housing options, are lifestyle choices. 

Q: What do you see as the biggest issues facing senior living providers, imminently and long-term?

A: The biggest issues are:

  • Attracting people to work in the field, especially healthcare professionals
  • Increasing the rate of implementation of innovations
  • Meeting the expectations of the next generation of customers
  • At least on a short-term basis, overbuilding

Luckily, some of the challenges also may provide the solutions. By evolving to meet the needs of future residents, we’ll also grow in our ability to attract the best-qualified candidates with new ideas and innovation  strategies.