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What's in a Name? Why "Facility" Doesn't Describe Who We Are

posted on Thursday, February 18, 2021

"Words Matter" Scrabble tiles

When you hear a reporter or newscaster talk about a senior living community, chances are he or she will refer to the place as a "facility." In a nuts-and-bolts sense, that's not wrong; Webster's defines "facility" as "a place, amenity, or piece of equipment provided for a particular purpose; for example, 'cooking facilities.'"

At WesleyLife, though, the word prompts reactions akin to those generated by fingernails dragging down a chalkboard. "It's like you bite into something cold when you have a cavity; that's my reaction when I hear that word," one leader says.

Why the sensitivity? The word "facility" connotes something stark, cold, and industrial. A factory is a facility. A warm, welcoming WesleyLife Community for Healthy Living is anything but.

Using the word "facility" in the context of senior living perpetuates stereotypes that our mission lobbies hard to eliminate. It's not unusual to hear someone talk about "putting Mom in Assisted Living." If your destination were a facility, it would make sense to think in terms of "putting" or "placing" someone there.

At WesleyLife, though, there's no "putting." When you've looked for a new house, have you talked in terms of "putting" yourself there? It's more likely you've talked about living in your new home; growing, thriving, and making memories. As we encourage people to think about what they want in their next home, we look forward to welcoming them, wherever we serve them in WesleyLife, to a vital, vibrant community of individuals with a lot to offer the world around them. 

Our Language for Living extends far beyond eschewing the use of "facility," though. When you're visited in your house or apartment by someone from WesleyLife at Home, for example, that person is not one of our "employees" -- he or she is a valued "team member." Again, are we just splitting hairs? Not at all.

While an "employee" is defined as "a person who works for wages or salary, especially at a nonexecutive level," a member of a team is "an individual who is part of a group that works together to achieve a goal." At WesleyLife, the goal is easily defined: We strive to ensure everyone everyone has a life of continued growth, experience, engagement, and meaning, regardless of physical, social, or economic circumstances. 

So they next time you hear a WesleyLife team member reference that goal, or talk about life in a welcoming, accessible, warm, and vibrant Community for Healthy Living, know that the the words we use were chosen carefully, with you in mind. Word are the heartbeat of relationships, and they're a key component of who we are as an organization. We hope that our language conveys, at all times and in all situations, how much you matter to us

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