Seniors and baby boomers are online in larger numbers than you may realize
by Ken Robbins

Aging in place ranks as a major concern among senior citizens. The quality of health care, better lifestyle choices and technology have all acted as enablers to help people stay in their homes and remain self-sufficient longer.

Older Americans aren’t just staying out of nursing homes longer—they are keeping active in ways that resemble younger demographics. They exercise, travel, eat at restaurants and adopt technology at higher rates than in the past. This demographic is even larger when you include baby boomers, which makes sense from a marketing standpoint, considering the similarities in the ways both groups consume media. Together, boomers and seniors control 70 percent of the disposable income in the United States. They will also inherit $15 trillion during the next 20 years. This market is enormous and largely ignored, targeted by only 10 percent or fewer marketers.

Many assume that digital marketing simply will not reach baby boomers and seniors. That’s a mistake because both of these segments are active online and on social media. Baby boomers, however, respond only to certain types of messaging, so savvy digital marketers are wise to rethink their approach when it comes to reaching the aging in place audience on digital channels. These engagement methods will likely differ from what appeals to younger generations.

Seniors Are Online in Droves

It’s a misconception that seniors are not online because they never learned the new technology. This may have been true many years ago because seniors were late adopters of the internet, but they have learned it over time.

Seniors now know that technologies, such as email and Skype, can keep them closer to family they are geographically separated from, so they have become active users.

Not only are they online, they are also social media users—in fact, almost half of all seniors have a Facebook account.

With plenty of time on their hands, this group loves to keep up with what family members are doing and look at pictures of grandchildren. Facebook is currently the most popular social media platform for both seniors and boomers by a wide margin. The big differentiator for these segments is they do not generally use Facebook to share much about themselves; they are much more interested in connecting with others. They are also avid researchers and love to visit sites that provide information on health issues, investing and shopping.

Seniors Have Different Values

The value propositions that resonate with other demographics are not as important to seniors. Trust and value are most important. When purchasing something such as a new car, features such as attractiveness, luxury and environmental friendliness take a backseat to a great warranty, a brand they trust and a reasonable price point. For this reason, the best way to reach seniors online is to supplement digital programs with a full campaign that also incorporates legacy channels.

Television is still the primary medium for reaching seniors. They also enjoy listening to the radio and reading newspapers. Of all demographics, seniors are most likely to ignore banner ads. This is especially true for brands they have never heard of, so it is important to view digital marketing as a piece of a larger strategy. This group will put much more trust into brands they have become familiar with through the other media channels they consume. Building awareness is an important step before making an offer.

Seniors Will Invest Time in Research

Marketers are used to existing in a world where cutting through the noise with punchy messages is vital to survival. If you don’t capture someone’s attention in the first two seconds, they are gone forever. Seniors operate in a largely opposite manner. They are distrustful of messages that are too quick and do not provide enough information. Seniors typically read a full page of text for products and services they are interested in, to get as much detail as possible.

You don’t have to rely on pictures and snappy videos to entice seniors—copy that provides as much detail as possible is much more effective. Make sure to use text that contrasts sharply with backgrounds since many seniors can have trouble reading on computer screens. In the text, answer as many of the questions you anticipate prospects having, and provide a comprehensive list of features, details and benefits. Providing a trove of information builds trust with this often skeptical demographic.

Reach Seniors Through a Caregiver Surrogate

Some seniors are not online, but that does not mean that they cannot be reached through digital channels. Last year more than 34 million people provided care to an adult age 50 or over—this number only accounts for unpaid care. More often, these caregivers are family members who are also in the boomer or senior demographic (34 percent of them are seniors), and they are reached by digital marketing tactics. Caregivers often act as decision makers and advocates for the adults they care for. Often, seniors who are not online have caregivers who are.

It made big news last year when millennials overshadowed baby boomers as the largest living generation in the United States. When combined, boomers and seniors still make up the biggest group by a large margin and have the most disposable income that many of them spend freely since mortgages and college tuitions for children are generally paid off. As seniors and their caregivers continue to migrate online, digital marketing done right is an important component of a marketing strategy that gets results with this demographic.