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Meadowood Left ‘Senior Living’ Behind — and Then What Happened?

By Jim Nelson | September 26, 2023


Addition by subtraction can show up in many forms — including when you subtract something that had been presumed untouchable.

Take the words “senior living,” for instance. Literally. For nearly 35 years, Meadowood had been Meadowood Senior Living, so when the idea of dropping “senior living” from the name of the nonprofit life plan community was broached, the predictable response of, “How are they going to find us?” soon turned into an unpredictable mandate to subtract the untouchable verbiage.

The rebranding that Meadowood ultimately underwent began as nothing more than a desire to freshen up its website. They got their shiny, new website, of course, courtesy of Xhilarate, a Philadelphia-based full-service branding and design agency, and they also got a fresh new logo to go along with their streamlined name.

John Kotsatos, Meadowood’s VP of Sales & Marketing, told Senior Living News that when people would come to visit the campus, they would typically say, “The grounds are beautiful, the campus is beautiful.” That reality, however, wasn’t being reflected on the website or in the logo, so working closely with Kotsatos and the community’s executive team, board of directors, and resident committee, Xhilarate’s Russ Napolitano focused on Meadowood’s 135-acres of gardens and wooded walking trails to come up with a new logo that reflects the community’s setting and pays homage to the founders’ three-legged stool philosophy — residents, board, and staff all coming together.

And the outdated website that started all this? It was bogged down with details and information, so the new site now emphasizes Meadowood’s grounds, its residential living options, its personalized Meadowell wellness program, and its various amenities conducive to an active lifestyle. Taking cues from luxury resorts’ and spas’ sites rather than from other senior living communities’ websites, Napolitano and his team created a whole fresh look for www.meadowood.net. The new look and feel were also extended to internal and external signage, direct mail, marketing materials, etc.

While the words “senior living” may be long gone from Meadowood’s name, those words and other pertinent terms are still peppered throughout the website to enhance SEO — so potential residents can still find Meadowood when searching online for “senior living” or “retirement” communities near Philadelphia.

Senior Living News spoke with Kotsatos about Meadowood’s rebranding.

SENIOR LIVING NEWS: How have things been working out at Meadowood since the rebranding?

John Kotsatos

JOHN KOTSATOS: There’s been kind of a reenergized feeling amongst not just us here in marketing, but staff, residents. It’s funny: a new logo was a big deal because we’ve been around since 1988; we’re a nonprofit, single site, founded by Bill and Sylvia [Strasburg], and we had a logo since then.

We just got out of a marketing committee meeting, which is a board-level committee, as well as residents, as well as staff. We’re talking about things from a marketing perspective that excite me, because we’re not talking about incentives, we’re talking about our culture. And part of what has led to that is the discovery of going from where we were to where we are now, with understanding what it is about Meadowood that makes people feel a certain way … what’s cool about what we’re doing now is that we want people to feel our culture. There’s this new direction that we’re heading towards, and the rebrand is a part of that. It’s pretty cool.

SLN: Why did Meadowood need to be rebranded?

JK: When I arrived here our senior director of fitness and wellness, Becky Anhorn, started coming to me; we have beautiful amenities here related to fitness and wellness, and she really felt that how we were portraying ourselves was no different than what other retirement communities look like. She has a lot of passion and felt that it wasn’t a strong representation of what she does. During this time, we were building a brand-new residential living project, and we had 52 apartments that were under construction, but we had a group of people who are already signed up — working out, swimming, going to classes. And I noticed that, “This seems like a very active energized group,” and I could tell that what I was seeing it do was not accurate with how we were marketing it.

So, it started with that, and then it ended up really taking off once COVID hit, because when COVID hit people were not able to come in and tour, and our front door became our website. We went from X amount of users per month to, we doubled and tripled because everyone was on our website trying to figure out what was going on over at Meadowood — the media, family members, residents. That was really the point where we said, “We have got to do something.” We felt that the imagery, the visuals that we had [on the site], didn’t cut it, so we ended up finding a photographer, locally, who we pitched this idea of, “Why don’t we just have you come in at will and shoot, and get to know us, and then we’ll bring you on, almost like on staff?” And he was with us for two years. And that’s where we then said, “Now it’s time for us to get that new website and start to rethink all of this.”

The combination of our fitness and wellness, COVID, and our website, that was what led us to say [about our website], “This is not who we are, let’s change this, let’s think differently about what people are looking at,” instead of us feeling as though we had to explain to them on our website what a life plan community is. It’s impossible to get a new user on our website to completely understand the ins and outs of agreements and services, so we said, “Why are we trying to do that? Why don’t we just get people to come onto our website and get a sense of who we are, get a good feeling?”

SLN: You dropped the words “senior living” from the name Meadowood; what was that conversation like internally?

JK: The “senior living” discussion was quite interesting. I’ve been in this since the day I graduated college and it’s certainly not an industry I thought I was going to stick in, but I’m so used to seeing “senior living” with the organizations that I’ve been with that when it came up there was that initial like, “How are they going to find us?” And the more [time] that we spent talking to people, doing the discovery and understanding how words made people feel, it became more and more evident that it was a no-brainer that we had to drop it.

One of the things that we discovered with the word “senior” is that it made people feel as though there was a care issue or that it was something like assisted living — they associated “senior” with “care.” It’s amazing, because the day after our [new] sign was installed a resident said to me, “It made me feel better about being at home.” That was completely what I wanted to hear, but it’s also what we wanted to be able to accomplish. We want people to drive down and be curious what Meadowood is, and not have this perception that it’s a place where a whole bunch of old people live and need help with.

Personally, I think moving in that direction now is going to let us do more things on the external that will allow our brand to impact and penetrate other areas. Another resident said to me, “The word retirement feels like I’m no longer moving. It’s like I’m stopping.” And these are real things that helped influence us. Overall, it’s been a great change.

SLN: What about the other messaging that you changed?

JK: We were heavily focused, messaging-wise, on how a continuing care retirement community works. There’s emphasis on what happens when you need more care, having those transitions, having the peace of mind, and we’ve now started to shift to it being more how to engage in an active lifestyle, and here are the things that we do here … people are very focused on floorplans, and we’re saying, “That’s still important, but it’s not just about the walls, it’s about the culture.”


Jim Nelson

Jim Nelson is the Editor at Senior Living News, an online trade publication featuring curated news and exclusive feature stories on changes, trends, and thought leaders in the senior living industry. He has been a writer and editor for 30+ years, including several years as an editor and managing editor. Jim covers the senior living sector for SeniorLivingNews.com, distributes its e-newsletter, and moderates panel discussions for the company’s HEALTHTAC events.

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