What’s in a Name? Part II

For the second post in our blog series, we will look at what convinced leaders of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore (ESMV-NS) that it was time for the agency to rebrand. Did you miss the first post in our series? Check it out.

For ESMV-NS, rebranding wasn’t the result of wanting to move away from a bad reputation or bad press. In fact, the existing reputation of the agency as a trusted resource in the community for more than 40 years made rebranding a potentially challenging and risky move. Would the agency be perceived as moving away from a mission of supporting older adults in the community? Would this be seen as a culture change for our staff, partners and consumers? Might stakeholders see this as a move to be more “corporate” and less community and mission minded? 

We heavily weighed and debated all of these concerns when thinking about how a rebrand might impact our organization. In assessing whether a rebrand was right for our agency and the communities we serve, the following factors contributed to our decision to move forward with a new brand:

  1. Our mission wasn’t changing but the way we achieved that mission was expanding. ESMV-NS desired to continue moving forward with a mission of helping allowing older adults to remain independent in their communities of choice and to make a wide range of choices available to them as they continued to age. What was clear, however, was that that path to retained independence didn’t start at age 60, or 65 or later in life.

By taking a more upstream approach and focusing on aging as a process as opposed to a destination, ESMV-NS could start influencing healthy aging with younger populations. We had experience in delivering evidence-based programs to younger populations with chronic conditions, providing navigation and care management services to people with disabilities and younger, vulnerable, low-income populations, and offering food access and nutrition services to individuals under age 60.

All of this taught us that helping people live healthier lives likely resulted in them having greater ability to remain independent as they aged, and that the expertise Aging Network providers developed in providing case management and care coordination for older adults could be expanded and augmented to provide those same services for other populations.

  1. The communities we serve were certainly changing. While in some circles, the term “elderly” is revered as one of honor and respect, many other people saw the term as unattractive or dated. Consumers and stakeholders shared that didn’t feel “elderly” so the services we provided weren’t appropriate for them, even though they might benefit from home and community-based services. Others reported they wouldn’t think of seeing assistance from “elder services” because they were a family caregiver, not an older person.

    In addition, the communities ESMV-NS served were changing. As a result of our 2019 merger with North Shore Elder Services, we added new communities to our service area. But members of these new communities didn’t identify with the “Merrimack Valley” and were often unsure if services offered by ESMV-NS were available to them. In addition, staff in our newly merged organization struggled with the agency’s identity. Rebranding as one new agency, absent the geographic histories that segmented staff, might offer a “fresh start” as one unified group, with a singular mission, vision and identity.

  2. ESMV-NS was at an inflection point, seeking new innovative work to both support existing crucial services and to support its efforts to address aging across the lifespan. We needed a name and identity that kept aging at the forefront but also reflected our efforts to support aging at all stages of life. Creating a brand that would appropriately reflect this approach would help agency efforts in welcoming new consumers, community partners, and potential health care collaborators. The 50-year-old patient with diabetes at the local community health center, our research showed, did not feel welcomed or attracted to receiving services from an “elder” agency. Nor did heath care providers understand that such an agency could serve younger populations.

So, what happened next? Read the next blog post in the series to learn the steps Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley-Eastern Shore took to become AgeSpan.

This blog post was written by AgeSpan staff.