One of the dilemmas senior housing operators face with their marketing has to do with where to direct the advertising. 

Specifically, do they advertise to prospective residents or to the adult children and/or caregivers of prospective residents? 

After all, it is generally accepted that Boomer children have significant influence on their aging parents’ purchases in more than three quarters of purchase decisions. And for prospects considering assisted living options, that percentage is probably even higher, as the adult children often drive this decision for parents who do not want to move yet cannot live independently anymore.

Look and Feel

A good solution to this dilemma is to direct your message to the adult children/caregivers, but with a look and feel of that message that is more suited for the older prospect.

For assisted living, memory care, long-term care and skilled nursing, the adult child/caregiver generally does the groundwork – reviewing housing options and filtering out those options that are not appropriate. Then they provide the best options to the aging loved ones to make the ultimate decision. The adult child/caregiver is interested in things like the quality of care, medical services support, staffing and cost. Therefore, these items should be core components of the advertising message. However, the way the message is communicated should be oriented for the aging parent. 

So, how does that look?

Obviously, the advertising should accommodate an older adult’s declining vision – clean and uncluttered with maximum contrast between copy and backgrounds, using larger type size and common fonts. 

In addition to issues caused by declining vision, recognize that working memory declines as one ages, too – especially after eighty years of age. Working memory decline results in slower information processing and less capacity to multitask. Furthermore, these aging seniors find it more difficult to maintain focus and deal with distractions. One of the effects of this is increased difficulty following long, complex sentences with multiple clauses. 

To minimize these obstacles in print or online communications that will be read by older adults:

  • Keep communications concise and straight-forward. When it comes to preparing advertising messages directed to the senior cohort, less is more.
  • Make sure your message is sequential. Avoid leaps in logic. Do not require your reader to jump around your sales materials or website to locate information. You run the risk of frustrating them, and may ultimately lose them altogether.

This doesn’t mean you have to “dumb-down” the messaging. These rules are consistent with good advertising technique no matter whether you are targeting older seniors or their Boomer children. And if the look and feel of your communications is not oriented to the senior, its credibility may be questioned by the Boomer children who may wonder if you really know and understand aging adults’ situation.

The main point is this: in order to get to prospective residents, you first must provide the information necessary to convince the gatekeepers – their adult children or caregivers – to include your community in their consideration set.  Then, when your community is introduced to their parents, your messaging must be clear and easy for those prospective residents to read and assimilate.

Your best rule-of-thumb:  Keep it simple.

Paul Flowers, President

Circa 46