Terms to Avoid When Discussing Senior Housing….

In this day and age, information bombards us constantly. The flow of news, ideas and events makes it challenging to stay on top of language, particularly when it comes to marketing. Certain words illicit visceral reactions in people. These words tend to change over time so awareness is essential for anyone in sales or marketing, particularly in senior housing. Senior housing grapples with two of the biggest challenges in life – aging and moving. It is important to limit or avoid words with a negative connotation. Studies and polls of the latest consumer attitudes are helpful for this.  The innocuous word “sales” is a good example. Most people have an instinctive dislike for sales even though it employs 11% of the U.S. workforce. Moreover, “salespeople” are often distrusted  (see the latest Gallup poll). So, despite the innumerable products and services that are sold and all of us using selling techniques in our daily lives ( persuading, arguing, debating, etc.) using the word sparingly and with precision is the best way to go.

A lot of people are sensitive about growing older and many will dislike common words like “senior citizen”, “retiree”, “elderly” and “independent”. Some will object to euphemisms such as “leisure years” thinking them condescending. Another word experts say to avoid is “facility”. ALF (Assisted Living Facility) is a common acronym for a sector of  the senior care industry as a whole but when referring to a specific business, “community” is the preferred word. The choice of words is important but only if they sound authentic and complimentary; cherry picked buzz words turn off prospective customers (see Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino for an example). The whole presentation (written or verbal) has to consistent and inviting. The wording should reflect customer’s needs and fears (because considering a move  IS fearful to many older folks) while maintaining the language of the senior housing market (necessary for comparison shopping).

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