Time to update the name of Seal Beach’s Leisure World?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Shakespeare poetic perhaps, but when it comes to real estate and perceived image, the name does impress. Developers spend thousands researching good names for their projects, and doesn’t Meadow Glen sound better than a place called Tar Alley?

Words create a thought. The name Leisure World conjures an image—pleasant to some, but perhaps a name no longer as marketable as it once was.

When Leisure World was created it was during an era when people stayed in their jobs, businesses or companies for 20 or more years, and when they did retire, retirement was a reward for service and a time for leisure, for rest and recreation. This type of retirement does still exist, but another form of retirement is now emerging especially among new retirees.

People who are not familiar with Leisure World, on first reaction, may think it is “assisted living.”  This is not so.

Inside Leisure World are active interested people realizing dreams and second or third careers. Yes, these same people do age.  Also, many have reached a plateau in life; taking time to smell the roses. Among those aging gracefully some assistance is needed to keep them “independent.”  And others needing significant aid, still may elect to stay, just as one would in an ordinary house.

According to Forbes, 78 percent of those born between 1946 and 1964 plan to work in “retirement.”

In general, these retirees anticipate pursuing an active life, and many plan to start encore careers.   The world of “leisure retirement” has changed.  Working is the new retirement plan.

The replacement term for “retired senior” people is now “active adult.” The just over-55 generation rejects the identifier “senior and retired.” In fact many are still working, very active and will never retire.

Interestingly “senior community” has now mutated into a euphemism for “assisted living.”  Over-55s are looking for “active adult communities for 55 and better.”  That’s the new buzz phrase!

A place with the name Leisure World is discouraging to the newly retired. Not only does the word Leisure suggest inactivity, but the word “world” is more famous for places like Disney World and Sea World, giving the Leisure World name, for some, a cause to chuckle.

How was Leisure World named?  Ross Cortese, the developer, selected the name for marketing reasons. Upon his death, ownership of the name transferred to his daughter.

Since it is a registered copyright, use of the name is subject to a payment. Realtors feel at a disadvantage when trying to advertise properties using the name Leisure World because of a potential usage fee. In fact, one well-established realtor for Leisure World has had a lawsuit brought against him for using the name in his business.

Fortunately, the community itself is not in that situation although the newspaper is no longer called the Leisure World News—it is now the Golden Rain News.  Why?  Because a usage fee might be levied on the paper for using the name Leisure World.

If this community were being developed today, no developer would choose the name Leisure World for people with active or independent over-55 lifestyles.

Historically, when built, this community fit the times.

But the times have changed and the word Leisure and the word World are now more associated with nursing homes and amusement parks, both of which do not reflect an inviting community image.

The second Leisure World, built in Laguna Hills, changed its name to Laguna Woods Village.  But Seal Beach Leisure World is under a different set of tenets than those of the former Laguna Hills Leisure World. Do not sound the alarm bell.

The troubles or costs that befell Laguna Hills Leisure World would not apply to Seal Beach.

If Seal Beach Leisure World updated its name, the costs are expected to be quite manageable with no increase in maintenance fees. Yes, it would cost some money to change signs— however, that would also provide an opportunity for much needed improvements to the entry gateway.

The cost of maintaining and running the outdoor globe alone runs anywhere from $5,000 to $38,000 per year, (depending on what’s included and the source of calculation).  There could be a savings right there, potentially enough to cover the costs of a change in name.

Looking around the city of Seal Beach, names of other “sub-communities” have pleasant rings:  Bridgeport, Old Towne, Surfside Colony, The Hill, Mariner’s Cove, Sea Breeze Village, Heron Pointe, and the latest new name, Seal Beach Shores.

Originally the city of Seal Beach was called Anaheim Landing and then the name changed to Bay city and then changed again.  While the natural tendency is to resist change, it is certainly not without precedent and not without good reason.

One resident suggested a new name for Leisure World could be Seal Pointe, another suggested the name Seal Beach Greens or The Village Green.  This idea will provoke discussion and argument, as it should. Nearing 50 years of age, does Leisure World needs a facelift?  Without updating the community image, residents who need to sell their properties today or those who may need to go to an assisted living facility, suffer.

By not staying current with the market and not attracting the new demographic of young active retirees, the community loses potential new buyers. This is a practical issue.

So one might ask, “What’s wrong with the name Leisure World.?”  Not a thing, except that the name image, by not appealing to new over-55 buyers, depresses real estate values. Upon hearing the name for the first time, one visiting Arizonan assumed it was assisted living where they had “group meals.” A Florida resident thought Leisure World would not have enough activities!  Neither potential buyer bothered to look further.

Not everyone reacts this way.  These reactions came from the so-called younger retirees—and they are the future of Leisure World.

Anne Seifert is president of the Where We Live Club. The Where We Live Club was formed to suggest ways to update and enhance the image of the Leisure World community.  A list of new names is presently being prepared for consideration.

If you are a Leisure World resident and would like to be a part of this process, contact the club by e-mail at: wherewelive@yahoo.com.