Almost four years after LeadingAge and Mather LifeWays introduced “life plan community” as an alternative name for “continuing care retirement community,” more education may be needed for prospective residents and their adult children to understand and appreciate the term, according to Zion & Zion.
The survey also points to a challenge for operators in that adult children and their parents appear to have different preferences in terminology.
LeadingAge and Mather LifeWays told McKnight’s Senior Living that they continue to support the newer name, which they say has received “broad acceptance nationwide.”
Zion & Zion, a Tempe, AZ-based advertising / marketing / public relations agency, recently surveyed 1,021 adults aged 75 or more years, and their adult children, to see how they reacted to “life plan community” and other senior housing naming conventions. The older adults participating in the survey lived in their homes in the greater community, not in senior living communities or nursing homes.
The older adults were asked which type of “senior residential community” would they visit first if they were moving to such a setting. Given three choices, they said they preferred “retirement community” (54%) over “life plan community” (27%) and “life care community” (19%), Zion & Zion found.
The adult children were asked which type of senior residential community they would encourage their parents to visit first. They preferred “life care community” (38%) over “retirement community” (35%) or “life plan community” (27%), according to survey results.
Life plan community, the agency said, may be better known among operators than the general public and “has so far failed to strike that balance” between the preferences of older adults and their adult children.
“While seniors have the lowest preference for seeing their destination as one where needing care is in the foreground, their children are perceiving the provision of care as an important consideration,” Zion & Zion said.
Representatives of LeadingAge and Mather LifeWays, however, told McKnight’s Senior Living that the term has been well-received.
“The intent of ‘life plan community’ was, and remains, an effort to accurately reflect and highlight the breadth of a community offering as well as to shift societal thinking about aging,” a LeadingAge spokeswoman said. “Aging is not only about needing care; it is about the desire to live in a positive, inclusive environment where residents can thrive in a community that supports the needs of all individuals.”
A January survey by LeadingAge and NORC found that older adults’ main concern as they age is to be safe – whether they live at home, in a senior living community or in a skilled nursing facility, she said. “ ‘Life plan community’ reflects that need: A place where people can live at all stages. LeadingAge continues to support that vision.”
Further, the spokeswoman said, a name that includes “retirement” in it will not reflect current and potential residents who still work full time or part time.
Mather LifeWays executives shared similar thoughts.
“The term ‘life plan community’ is a forward-thinking moniker that repositions CCRCs for the future and targets boomer consumers who are seeking a lifestyle option and plan for the future,” Mather LifeWays CEO and President Mary Leary said.
Brenda Schreiber, senior vice president of marketing at the Evanston, IL-based not-for-profit organization, said the effort to consider a new name took several years and involved hundreds of communities and input from more than 4,100 surveys, 34 focus groups and more than 250 people.
“In the four years since LeadingAge announced its recommendation for communities to adopt the term ‘life plan community’ at its annual meeting in 2015, we’ve seen broad acceptance nationwide,” Schreiber said. “We felt then, and continue to feel, that ‘life plan community’ resonates with people in a meaningful way. It reflects the lifestyle and attitudes of the next generation of residents and expands the perception of possibilities to plan for a healthy and rewarding life.”