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24-Hour Access: Marketing to Active Older Adults

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Judi Christy, the director of marketing and communication at the Akron Area YMCA, shares a lesson learned in marketing to active older adults when transitioning to 24-hour access at one of the Y’s locations. 

Last night, and the one before that, and most assuredly a couple of nights last week, I woke up well before my 5 a.m. alarm. Several times. I could chalk this up to my New Year’s resolution to drink more water, or to the fact that my cat was crushing my legs or even, although this is very unlikely, that my husband was snoring – loudly.

But, whatever the reason, my brain started buzzing hours before the beep.

I tried deep breathing and counting sheep. I even tried to envision my chakras and recall the United States presidents in reverse order – getting stalled before yellow, and stumped after Eisenhower.

I thought about getting up, cracking open the book I started reading weeks ago and, yes, drinking more coffee.

I even thought about driving to work and getting a real jump on my day, but that would mean taking a shower and putting on makeup. Maybe I could clean out the cupboards, write thank you notes from last Christmas, buy something I didn’t need on Amazon, worry about the future of my kids, obsess over the state of the country, make a mental shopping list, try to think of the name of all the kids in my grade school class, or just lay there and stare at the ceiling and listen to my husband (not) snore.

So many options. But one that never crossed my mind was getting up and leaving the house to work out. At least until now.

In the spring of 2022, we will offer 24-hour access to a Y in our Association. As part of this process, we consulted with other Ys that have added this type of extended access to their memberships. We wanted the ins and outs and lessons learned before we jumped into something that we had before only taken a small toe dip.

Learn More: Marketing to Active Older Adults – You’re Probably Doing it Wrong

Our colleagues were great. They shared insights and examples of what worked and what they wish they had known before starting. They also offered a surprising fact:  Older adults were the highest users of the 24-hour access between 2 and 5 a.m.

Why? Well, maybe because they could not sleep.

I was honestly stunned by this news. I thought older people – like myself – did not want to drive at night. I thought they preferred to toss and turn rather than squat and spin. I thought they would rather suffer in silence instead of getting into gear.

I’m slightly joking, but truly I did not think our 24-hour access would, or should be, aimed at older people, like myself. So much for my claim to be a marketing genius.

My astute plan was to launch our 24-hour access Grand Opening to the kids – people under 65, without cataracts and AARP cards in their wallets. I thought young people were buzzed with energy and would love nothing more than to hit a late-night Starbucks and cozy up for some cardio before hitting the hay at 3 a.m.

Learn More: Y Partners with GetSetUp to Provide Classes for Older Adults

I also thought to promote our program to local manufacturers on a 24-hour schedule, our health professionals on crazy rotations and our college students who, if I remember right, sleep in on Fridays.

I had my targets marked. But, I forgot my own peeps – the active older adults who can’t seem to sleep. So, I spent a few waking moments thinking about my pitch:

“Forget the Tylenol PM, the hot toddy, and the over-the-counter melatonin. We’ve got 24-hour access. Slip away from the snoring mate, swipe your card and see who else is living on the edge of darkness at our Lake Anna YMCA.”

There’s only so many hours in the day… use them or lose them.

Stay tuned to see how it works.

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Judi Christy

Judi Christy is the director of marketing and communication at the Akron Area YMCA.

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