By Tom Mann, Principal, Executive Vice President

The Importance of Words and Wellness Directors

Words are powerful.

Many years ago I wrote a blog titled, “Death of the Continuing Care Retirement Community” which was focused on the importance of the words we use or shouldn’t use to market retirement communities (and foreshadowing of terms like Life Plan Communities). As I listened to an excellent presentation on this topic recently given by Bruce Byers and John Spooner of Greystone, I was left wondering why we as an industry have hesitated to take the medicine we so desperately need?

I think part of the answer lies in our imagined dependence on industry labels such as; retirement communities, senior living, active 55+ communities, continuing care retirement communities, CCRCs, assisted living, skilled care, nursing care. After all, how will our prospects find us? Won’t this hurt our website’s search engine optimization (SEO)? But the reality is that outside of the terms “assisted living” and “nursing care” very few people actually search utilizing these terms. Take a look at the number of national monthly Google searches on some of the most popular industry terms:

  • Assisted Living: 40,500
  • Nursing Home: 33,100
  • Independent Living: 12,100
  • Senior Living: 9,900
  • Retirement Communities: 6,600
  • 55+ Communities: 6,600
  • Nursing Care: 4,400
  • Retirement living: 1,900
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities: 1,600
  • Skilled Care: 320
  • CCRCs: 260
  • Active 55+ Communities: 140

To put this into perspective, there are 1,830,000 monthly searches on the term “flowers.”

Your retirement community’s marketing should be sharing copy points and images (notice, I didn’t say stock images) that highlight your community’s unique appeal, rather than trying to fit within a label. Remember, currently less than 7% of the age and income qualified audience ever makes the move to a continuing care retirement community; leaving your community with a rich opportunity to reimagine the category. Compelling copy about compelling products, in this case your community, provides you with the chance of winning over prospects that up until now have been sitting on the sidelines.

Which leads me to my second point. Our industry’s lack of appeal to the larger audience is more than just a lack of original marketing thought. The problem originates with the actual product offering. If we are going to attract baby boomers we need to offer them a lifestyle they truly aspire towards, one which is built around hospitality, wellness, and choices. We also need to figure out how to make the side effects of our current residents aging in place more palatable to younger, newer residents. This will require true creativity.

Let’s agree to start today in two simple places. Advertising that defies convention and wellness programming that breaks the mold.

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