3 Strategies for Reaching Older Adults More Effectively

Ageism has been an issue in our society for decades, and some experts say the COVID-19 pandemic amplified its negative effects. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes agesim as “the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or ourselves based on age.” Ageism is often associated with older adults, and it unfortunately seeps into all kinds of contexts—including advertising

To help ensure the effectiveness of your marketing to older adults—and avoid the harmful effects of ageism in your messaging—we’ll take a look at three strategies experts recommend you keep in mind. 

Updating Your Messaging

In a July 2021 Harvard Business Review article, Hal Hershfield, Ph.D. and Laura Carstensen, Ph.D. describe why “Your Messaging to Older Audiences is Outdated.” Hershfield is the UCLA Anderson Board of Advisors Endowed Term Chair in Management and professor of marketing, behavioral decision making, and psychology at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Carstensen is a professor of psychology and  the founder and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. Professor in Public Policy at Stanford University.

In the context of our “rapidly aging population,” Hershfield and Carstensen underscore the importance of effective messaging for older people, writing that it “holds national importance for public health as well as marketing of goods and services.”

They also note the growing futility of age-based market segmentation, since older people “make up an incredibly diverse demographic that varies in terms of physical and cognitive ability, economic power, and social connection.”

As a result, they recommend that messaging instead be focused on “appealing to varying time horizons based on subjective age and perceived time left in life,” defining time horizons as “whether we see our futures as vast or constrained.”

“When time horizons are expansive and nebulous, people focus on goals that prepare them for lengthy, uncertain futures. They prioritize novelty and exploration,” they explain. “By contrast, when time horizons are perceived as limited, people place more weight on emotionally meaningful goals.”

3 Strategies for Reaching Older Adults More Effectively

In light of the time horizon concept, the authors recommend three specific strategies when creating messaging for older adults: 

  1. Focus on emotionally meaningful material: “Because goals direct cognitive processing, perceived future time not only shapes plans, it influences what people see, hear, and remember. …Advertisements that focus on emotionally meaningful rewards will be more appealing to older adults and better remembered.” 
  2. Prioritize the positive: “Shifting time horizons also change the type of information people pay attention to and process. Older people, compared to their younger counterparts, pay attention to and remember more positive than negative information. … Framing emotional content in positive, rather than negative, ways will capture the attention of older adults.”
  3. Identify with the elderly—and ditch the stereotypes: “Most older people refer to ‘older people’ in the third person. This doesn’t mean that they see themselves as youthful hipsters, but rather that they report feeling subjectively younger than they actually are.”

Honing your marketing messaging for specific audiences takes a lot of time, effort, and skill. If you’re looking for a partner with the expertise to help you do it most effectively, AMG Healthcare Marketing is here for you.  

Contact us today to find out how we can help you level up your healthcare marketing strategy.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.

Published On: April 27, 2022

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