Earlier this year, the venerable, long-running ALFA conference on senior living was known for the first time under the organization's new name: the Argentum 2016 Senior Living Executive Conference. The trade group formerly known as the Assisted Living Federation of America, or ALFA, changed its moniker to Argentum late last year.
Why the name change? As the largest national trade group dedicated exclusively, in its own words, to "professionally-managed, resident-centered senior living communities," Argentum is joining many other organizations in the assisted living industry in updating the language it uses to describe itself.
Casting out “terms like senior citizen, retirement and assisted living” reflects a more modern, inclusive terminology, as The Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Levitz describes it.
"No single word represents the panoply of products and services offered by Argentum’s members,” Argentum announced in a news release in September; “thus, the new name provides flexibility to allow the industry and the association itself to grow."
"Our brand transformation better represents where the industry is today as well as our vision for the future,” Argentum President & CEO James Balda said in the news release.
Argentum COO Maribeth Bersani describes the name change in more colorful language, telling Levitz that the word senior is “old school.” (The word Argentum is Latin for silver.)
Behind the ALFA Conference Rebrand: From Senior to Silver
“Since ALFA’s formation 25 years ago, the senior living industry has undergone many changes, and is primed for many more as baby boomers begin to use our services,” Argentum President & CEO James Balda said in the organization's own explanation for the name change. "Our brand transformation better represents where the industry is today as well as our vision for the future.”
Per that statement, the new name more effectively "conveys strength and a sense of gravitas while giving a nod to the 'silver generation' Argentum’s members serve." On top of that, Argentum believes that this rebranding will:
- Better represent a diverse industry
- Reflect the group's consumer-friendly and industry-facing priorities ("Argentum signals strength, maturity and a sense of importance — traits that resonate with both businesses and consumers")
- Honor the passion and commitment of senior living professionals
However, the word "senior" has by no means been eradicated from Argentum's lexicon — and was, in fact, not a part of ALFA's name in the first place. The rebranding is instead described as a general reflection of the industry's changing perception of itself; Argentum's list of "taboo talking points" still lists "senior living" as an acceptable and even preferred term, but other terms, like "assisted living facility" and "patient," are not (the preferred terms being "assisted living community" and "resident").
"As assisted and senior living evolves to meet the needs of 'gray tsunami,' often referred to as the baby boomer generation, we must continue to refine philosophy and discussion of our service venue," the organization points out. "In order to accomplish this task it is essential assisted living vocabulary reinforces choice, dignity and independence. The words we speak convey our philosophy and direct our actions."
The ALFA Conference Rebrand: Embracing the Baby Boomer Generation
Argentum is not the only organization to de-emphasize the word "senior," and baby boomers are the primary reason why. "Senior centers in Minnesota, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, California and elsewhere are rebranding themselves to appeal to baby boomers, the generation turning 65 at an estimated clip of 10,000 people a day," Levitz writes in the WSJ article. "Many boomers find old-age labels and conventions to be unappealing."
“It’s very clear when you talk to people in the baby boom group that they don’t like that name and they don’t want anything to do with it,” Sally Gallagher, executive director of Minnesota's Rochester Senior Center, told Levitz. (The Senior Center is now known as the “125 Live Center for Active Adults.”)
Though there is some resistance to the trend — one Rochester resident told Levitz that, as far as she's concerned, “we’re going to keep calling it ‘the senior center,’” — some organizations are already describing the decision to move away from the word "senior" as a successful one.
When Maryland's Ellicott City Senior Center changed its name to the Ellicott City 50+ Center, for instance, local retiree Joanie Casey decided to check it out.
“I thought it was for old people,” she told Levitz. What she found when she checked it out was an active, “demanding” fitness club where she could “work out with people in her own age group.”
The center reports that the new name "has gone over well and membership has increased since the change," Levitz writes, adding that increased revenues from those membership fees will allow the addition of more activities.
“Not that we’re competing with the private sector but we have to think more along the lines of a business,” Ellicott City Senior Center director Cindy Saathoff told Levitz.
Care Innovations® attended and exhibited at the newly rebranded 2016 Argentum Senior Living Executive Conference, a four-day meeting that ran from May 9th through 12th at the Denver Convention Center. Click here for an overview of the conference.