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Why do aging services organizations change their names?

What's in a name? At last week’s LeadingAge, CCRCs became Life Plan Communities. The change was made because "continuing care" implies a setting where older adults are being cared for. (Duh.) And apparently 84% of consumers younger than 65 didn’t know what a CCRC was.  Probably young folks also didn’t get it when AAHSA became LeadingAge in 2011. To the outside observer who last attended in 2010, the LeadingAge conference seems unchanged, and the business of the members? Also unchanged. The book of session topics, exhibit hall booth purchasers, and the roles of executives attending – appears to be the same old, same, as it were, old – not-for-profit CCRCs, uh, Life Plan Communities. Oh, and the for-profit equivalent, ALFA, will not to be outdone namewise -- that association is now called Argentum (Latin for 'Silver').

Rename out of frustration or a new purpose?  The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) renamed itself Aging Care. GCMs may have been concerned that their identity sounded too similar to social services Case Managers, those who manage state-employed social workers.  LeadingAge and ALFA might want to extend their role beyond the limitations of brick-and-mortar buildings, although judging from the list of exhibitors at LeadingAge, that’s not happening. The absent private duty home or geriatric care managers may not have thought exhibiting at the event was worth the cost. On the other hand, there were plenty of architects, interior design and furnishings firms, some technology, and of course, many consultants – perhaps hopeful for engagements to help attract younger consumers to Life Plan Communities.

Rebranding with a new name and mission can be confusing – or ignored. So many entities rename/rebrand, that the phrase 'formerly known as' has become a standard part of the language (see press about the newly surveyed Mount McKinley, er, Denali). One of the notable re-branders in recent years was AARP's campaign, "You Don't Know AARP" (rhymes with HARP). The AARP re-branding seemed intent on retiring the word 'Retired' since their target demographic, the 50+ population, is delaying retirement and re-imaging their life ('You, only better!').  Rebranding can also signal new management (both ALFA and LeadingAge have new chief execs). So there's a new name, and as with LeadingAge, members expect the organization to be forward-thinking – expanding 'the world of possibilities for aging.'  Hence, the term Life Plan Communities, for the forward-thinking prospective consumer who is a life planner.

Re-branding with a new name signals management fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  To help imagine the term Life Plan Communities, LeadingAge hired marketers "GlynnDevins, Brooks Adams Research, Love & Company, Varsity and SB&A Integrated Marketing." The problems meriting that much consulting are very real and will be business-painful. Will younger boomers move in or will they remain in their homes? Nursing homes have been closing; home care is and will be booming; greater longevity means delayed move-in and less money to pay for later stages of care. Is the future bright for companies that offer aging services? It could be. There are so many opportunities to offer new services to the community, partner and merge with home care companies, co-locate near 55+ communities, or partner to create new housing types. Maybe all of those will be acknowledged by the time LeadingAge returns to Boston.


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