Perhaps the use of the word “community” needs to be replaced with a term that is more inclusive and less exclusive.

I frequently write about senior living properties in the context of the broader local marketplace community they serve and market to.  One of the big industry sins we live with, and know we live with, is that senior living properties (is this term bugging you yet?) largely operate, physically and figuratively, as little islands that have only occasional contact with the broader marketplace community. In some cases this happens because land is cheaper, or just plain available, on the outskirts of a marketplace community rather than in more densely populated urban centers.  Occasionally, particularly with older senior properties, it happens because surrounding neighborhoods have deteriorated over time and they end up taking on a fortress mentality, resisting change of any kind.  Finally, being a more or less self-contained island community that has frequent visitors and provides regular field trips off the island is just plain easier.

Community, Facility, Property

I am constantly searching for stories where senior living operators have been successful at integrating into their local marketplace.  There are not as many of these stories as I would hope for, but they are becoming more prevalent.  As I write these stories I am constantly struggling with how to clearly differentiate between “community” that means the “senior community” and “community” that means the marketplace in which those senior communities sit.  Earlier today I was finishing the article “Festival of Trees” and fighting this battle once again.  It got me thinking that there must be a better term for the senior living properties. You may think this is a trivial issue, but words matter.  Each of us has attended a breakout presentation where the speaker hasn’t done such a good job of familiarizing themselves with our industry and, over and over again, uses the term “facility” instead of community.  At least for me, I find it so distracting that I have a hard time absorbing the content of the presentation. I know that, when attending NIC, presenters always use the term seniors living (with the s at the end of seniors).  There is no doubt this is more technically correct than senior living or senior housing, but somehow, it just doesn’t sit well, at least with my ear.

Beyond Community

The reason we somehow need to get beyond the term community is that it reinforces this island mentality, my senior community sits inside your broader community, which means I am more a member of the senior community than the marketplace community.  It is a subtle but real us vs. them.  The way we will become more successful, have deeper market penetration, is to become deeply involved in the local marketplace community . . . to be true members of that broader community. Over the last ten or fifteen years hospitals have done a really good job of doing this.  They have all kinds of programs and initiatives that get themselves in to the marketplace community and the marketplace community inside the hospital for things other than needed medical care. Do you have any ideas for what would be a better term?  Maybe we can start a movement?

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