Wednesday, February 04, 2009

How to Name a Senior Service

I'm part of a Google Group that discusses the organizations that are starting up all over the country which were inspired by the Beacon Hill Village model. Recently, I got into a discussion about what to name such organizations. Do you offend people with names like Old, Village, Aging, Senior, Elderly, etc.? I posted a response in the group, and I post it here, too.

I've been dealing with this issue since 1975. Even in the mid-1970s, adults over 65 did not want to be called "older" or "senior" or "elderly". Yet, this same group wants perks for their age, like free checking accounts or discount movies. I know this because I was doing market research on "elderly" bank customers as a class project when I was at Wharton in Philadelphia. I've come to the conclusion that you truly can't please all the people all the time. If someone really needs the services, they won't care what the service is called. Plus people love to complain.

Norwalk Community College (Norwalk, CT) runs a special set of courses for people over 60. It's called Lifetime Learners Institute. It's popular and vibrant. They say up front that it's for people 60+. Stating an age may be the easiest way to communicate who your target audience is. My father-in-law used to be proud of belonging to the "Old Guard." "Adult" could connote "sex" as in adult videos. Any word you choose could have something wrong with it.

I'm on the board of Aging in Place in Darien. We discussed our name a lot and finally decided to just go with our descriptive title. Our town has a Senior Center and a Senior Men's Group that are popular. People who are offended by the names are missing out on great programs. Eventually, they hear of the true value via word of mouth.

Wyn Lydecker
Founding member of Aging in Place in Darien

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