Judi Christy, the director of marketing and communication at the Akron Area YMCA, shares tips on marketing to active older adults.
“Okay, Boomer – It takes one to know one.” We’re recognized by our crow’s feet and bird’s eye view of all things post 1960 when life was simpler, people were nicer, times were better and grass was greener. We’ve voted for winners and losers, survived recessions and elevated above platform shoes, corded phones and the need to wear bicycle helmets and seat belts. We fear nothing – except being called old.
We all think we’re young and look 100 times better than everyone else our age. Many of us have planned ahead and are retired from a job well done. Others, like me, still have a few miles to travel and dollars to hoard before rocking on the porch and watching the time fly. Only a few of us knit, play checkers, hike our pants up to our top rib or watch TV at a decibel loud enough to crack glass.
We don’t all drive slow in the fast lane. In fact, many of us are faster on our feet and in our heads than those half our age. Don’t believe it? Ask someone under 35 to make change without a calculator or have a conversation without scrolling on a screen.
Surprisingly, we do understand technology; the parts that we need to understand. But, we’re still pretty limber with our language and can have a real conversation in real time about real things with real people. We all know how to sign our names in cursive, write thank you notes with an actual pen and read by cracking the spine of a book we found through the alphabetized card catalog at the library.
We don’t rely on Google for the answers or a podcast for our opinions. We’re pretty set in our ways. However, we do like a good GPS. Rand-McNally be darned.
So, when mapping out marketing to active older adults, don’t assume we don’t text, have an Instagram account, think TikTok is a noise on our Big Ben or need to take a nap after lunch. Many active older adults are very active; getting younger every year and outliving the previous generation who may have been content to mosey into maturity. This group – my group – does not.
We’re still in the game, insulted if you don’t pick us for the team, and frankly irritated if you treat us like the old codgers we are committed to never ever becoming. Even if we do get a knee replaced or a face uplifted, we can still take a spin class, do a mountain pose and play one heck of a game of Pickle ball. We may not be as fast or as steady as we’d like to think, but by gosh, we are stubborn.
And as such, we will resist being treated differently than we were before the grey hair and bifocals. We see things how they really are. So market to us by asking us what we want. My guess is that we want what we all want: To achieve our goals – to build relationships and to feel a sense of belonging.
But, don’t box us into a one-size-fits-all category. We’re still breathing and need our space. Assuming anyone over 60 is the same as everyone over 60 won’t work. We will resist your attempts as much as we currently resist “Ask Your Doctor” commercials, Joe Namath selling TV insurance and cracks about old dogs and spring chickens.
Our time is valuable so don’t waste it. We may seem like we have all of it in the world, but we both know we don’t. Remember before we got here, we were there – in your shoes, pant size and mindset.
We are still unique. Our goals will differ from person to person, as they always have and always will. As an older adult, our desire to build relationships might skew from finding a new buddy on the next treadmill to joining a bundle of bobbing bathers in an eight o’clock in the morning aqua aerobics class.
And, as far as belonging goes, we do not want to be ignored. Know our names, smile, say hello and goodbye, and if appropriate, ask us about our grandkids. This will enable us to practice on our iPhone skills while showing you pictures. It will be educational for us both.
We both have a lot to learn, with only time to teach us how.