Having worked in advertising for 33 years, I find it hard to look at a piece of marketing communications without wondering how I would have done it, especially if I feel it misses the mark. I’ve noticed it particularly in the signs outside senior living facilities, perhaps because the day is not so far off when I will be ensconced in one myself, eating lime Jello® and being entertained by an amateur magician who twists balloons into the shapes of small domestic animals.
The one that bothers me the most is just down the street. I pass it every day—a large sign perched on a little mound of grass emblazoned with the words Senior Living Solutions. Could they be any less tactful? It’s true, of course—taking care of aging parents is a problem. But you don’t say it! It’s like pulling up with mom in the car and shouting, “See that sign, Ma? Isn’t it great?! You’re going to get solved!” It doesn’t get any worse.
Some, however, come close. On a recent drive to a neighboring town I passed several more facilities for the aged. There was Elder Choice, for instance. Let me guess who’s doing the choosing. Probably not the elder. Then there was Sunrise. If I were in my 80s or 90s and my children put me there, I would sneak out in the middle of the night, scratch out the “rise,” write “sets” in its place and leave a note saying: “Who do you think you’re kidding?” Another such facility got to the point like a hammer hitting a nail: The Home. Adult Care. Never mind that “adult” always makes me think of something dirty. The Home? That’s a punch line! Hey Pop, you better behave or we’ll stick you in The Home. Ha, ha, ha! Good grief.
Traveling a little farther I came upon Maple Downs. Why would they pick a name so evocative of a racetrack? You get the feeling the staff are all inside laying odds on who’s the next to go. I’ve got Ethel Schwartz at 5-to-1 crossing the Finish Line by October!
Farther on still was The Athenaeum. I liked the classical ring—until it conjured up images of my 93-year-old father walking around in a toga. I nearly drove off the road.
It’s like pulling up with mom in the car and shouting, “See that sign, Ma? Isn’t it great?! You’re going to get solved!”
Only one place got it right, in my opinion—or almost right: Walden Place. Doesn’t that sound nice? You immediately think of the tranquility and beauty of Thoreau’s Walden Pond, nestled snugly amidst the verdant poplars and swaying birch trees of the Massachusetts woodlands. Unfortunately, this place was surrounded by a rock quarry and a giant parking lot. Still, you have to give them credit for trying.
Of course, if I don’t like the names of these places I can start my own. There’s a gentleman on the internet who, for 17,500, will teach me how to run a successful nursing home business. (If I had 17,500 to spare I’d already be successful, but I don’t so here’s my chance.) The name of the facility is up to me, but in case I’m stuck he offers some thought-starters, like ResCare and TruCare. Can’t find any fault there. I can’t find any meaning either, but maybe that’s the point. Or I could try Unlimited Care. I just couldn’t deliver it. Who gets unlimited healthcare besides members of the United States Congress?
The gentleman’s course also suggests catchy slogans to go with the names, such as We Are Like Family. I’m not sure if that would reassure an elderly resident or scare them half to death. Another one is: Insured. Trusted. Difficult to ascertain the meaning here, but I’ll take a guess: You can trust us because we’re insured, so if we mix up your meds and you go into anaphylactic shock you’ll make some serious money.
If I had to choose one of this gentleman’s suggestions I would probably go with Always Here for You and Them. Not only does it suggest continuous support and caring, it refers to relatives the same way the resident does upon their arrival for a visit: “Oh no, it’s them again!”
So what would I name a senior living residence? Oh, I don’t know. How about … Senior Living Residence?
John Cadley is a former advertising copywriter, freelance writer and musician living in Fayetteville, New York.