PT on the Net Research

Over Sixty and Overlooked: Attracting and Serving the Aging Market


This article will explore the fitness opportunity that exists among the untapped 60 to 70-year-old market. Brands catering to the 50+ and 50-something emerged to meet Boomer demand. Yet Boomers now, the first of which who have turned 70, aren’t finding fitness alternatives that fit their diverse needs and interests.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify the opportunity in this market.
  2. Recognize the diversity within the market.
  3. Plan how and where to reach this market.
  4. Create a language and branding that attracts.

The Opportunity

Marketing to the older generation has exploded since Boomers passed through their 50s and began to retire. Now with businesses targeting the “over 50” market, a growing number of Boomers crossing the 70 threshold are left out. The 65 and over age group is estimated at about 50 million or about 17% of total population.

“What about something for over 70s?” I’m frequently asked.

Even my book and Facebook page, Navigating Fitness After 50, leave someone two decades after feeling out of the loop.

“Should I do that if I’m 76?” Another woman asked.

These are not isolated questions. They’re regular and frequent questions of women, who are online and looking for answers but can’t find them. This market is growing steadily.

If you too have made the mistake of thinking “over 50” is inclusive, it’s time to reconsider the opportunity to cater to this first born Boomer. The Boomer market, and the older silent and GI generations, offer a great opportunity for trainers willing to rebrand to attract and reprogram to serve this mature market.

What Boomers Tell Me

“Young trainers don’t listen.”

If stereotyping older adults is unfair, so of course is this, but they don’t feel heard. If you’re the exception, you have a good opportunity if you can get their attention. Listen to the importance of exercise to the older adult in front of you rather than guess you know what it is. They think young even if they have less resilient joints.

“I had a trainer a couple years ago and I was so sore I couldn’t do anything for days.”

Run a delicate balance between pushing them and not leaving them so sore they think you were just out to prove a point.

“I can’t lose weight because I can’t ________."

Unnecessary frustrations haunt many older adults who have arthritis or limitations that make goals they have seem unattainable, simply because they are unaware of alternatives. Give them hope and win them over.

Who Are They?

This is the generation that pushed boundaries and there’s no indication that because they’re older that’s going to stop. This generation escorted in the running boom, aerobics, and they’re expanding the older age groups at short and long running events still to this day. They don’t want a condescending trainer but they’re equally wary about getting injured. They, after all, were the kings and queens of high impact at one time.

They aren’t all the same fitness level. Within this mature market of Boomers you’re going to find marathon runners and those with limited mobility due to chronic conditions and disease. Appeal to this group with their music, their values, and know their life history. Understand whether their goals are to improve their race performance or to decrease the progression of a disease.

Older adults think younger and they are younger physically than people their same age were 15-20 years ago. They want to explore, have adventure, and they want options that may have seemed strange in the past. They’re starting businesses and online dating, so you can expect that they seek a change from traditional chair aerobics or sit-and-be-fit classes.

Common marketing campaigns focus on balance, bone density, and fall prevention. These things aren’t to be ignored, but the landscape of 70 and older adults’ desires are diverse and changing. They want those benefits delivered in packages that provide possibilities, adventure, and allow exploration of new things.

This demographic is buying stand up paddle boards. They may have done a first marathon recently, or returned to racing after retirement. They are taking active vacations with their families. They want to maneuver those things without back issues, or endurance problems. They don’t want to sit in the bleachers. They want to play the game.

How Do You Reach Them?

Online

According to a Pew Research Center study, 6-10 seniors go online. Specifically, 68% of Americans in their early 70s go online. In 2012, 77% had a cell phone. Internet adoption fell 47% with 75-79 year olds, but keep in mind as the population ages, adults who have been online are not likely to stop (Smith, 2014). Get your website in shape.

Education and income level significantly increase internet use by 90% and 87%, respectively (Smith, 2014). This educated, affluent demographic, of course, is an excellent target for your fitness services. Even if you’re local however, you’re competing on a global information highway. Your target is reading Huffington Post and the New York Times Well blogs. They can use PubMed too.

Social Media

Can you use social media to market to them? 27% of older adults use social media, and those who do are in general much more connected socially elsewhere which means they may help you spread the word (Smith, 2014). With Facebook enabling you to narrow your audience and target a specific ad to an age group in a specific location or based on your website visitors, social media campaigns dedicated to older adults are budget-friendly provided you’ve done your homework on humor, music, and a message that resonates.

Traditional Platforms

For those mature adults who do not go online or don’t use social media, traditional methods of marketing still work. At least 74% of newspaper readers are 45 and older. The Pew Research study found 52% of adults over 65 read a newspaper daily (Smith, 2014). Print news is not dead for the older adult population.

Deliver

Outreach is important for this demographic. Give presentations in retirement communities. It’s true a growing number of them provide onsite programs. Yet, many older adults move into these communities before they have a real need for healthcare and still engage out in the community at large.

Host

Invite the public into your facility. Host workshops on balance, eating for energy after 60, or a salsa dance class targeted at this demographic. You’ll find some older adults prefer to be mixed with all ages and some enjoy exercising with their peers. Split test to know what they want.

Give Them What They Want

Active online over 65 year olds compare prices and watch videos. Are yours there? Do you portray canned testimonials, or fun, active classes and images that feature adults in this age range who look like they’re enjoying themselves? It may not be factual that there aren’t options but 60 and 70-somethings aren’t feeling the marketing love. If you make your website and images reflect 20% of older adult content, you may miss the mark. They don’t fee like the priority they want to be. Create a specific section dedicated to older adults.

Provide information, solutions, and give freely to establish quality, value, and trust. Make your website the easy-to-navigate resource:

Do Your Research

Understand your geographical community if you serve local. In 10 years, there will be a much more vibrant life for the 70+ market online but for now they’re still looking for your front door. Life history is important when you’re marketing to mature adults. Did they grow up in a small town? Have they traveled the world?

Within your community you’re likely to find that more affluent, educated older adults are drawn to different marketing messages than those with more limited means. If you want to serve both casting a single message won’t catch everyone.

Tactics

Develop programs that give older adults something to look forward to and a goal beyond regular exercise or attending a training session three times a week. A training program for older adult beginner runners, for instance is an untapped niche. Consider making this market a unique subset of your business if you’re in a large agency. Do you offer something for older adult beginners, athletes, and those with chronic conditions?

Review your website and make sure you have images of older adults at the fitness level you’re trying to attract. If you’re showing a matronly silver-haired woman in a pool aerobics class you may miss the 60-something who wants to bike, swim and stand-up paddleboard.

This prospective new client is going to stop by your website. Don’t expect she’ll email you or call you if you haven’t given her generous amounts of information in the form of video, printable recipes, or articles that give her practical solutions. She’s bought and sold far more than you and has less time to waste. Earn her trust if you want her to take the next step. (See bullets in the prior section.)

It’s all in a name. Program titles like Senior Yoga or Senior Strength leave a lot to be desired. Do you aspire to be a senior? A Boomer doesn’t recognize the reflection in the mirror. She still thinks 20 years younger. One Boomer may want gentle yoga and another, power. Be inclusive with titles and specific with descriptions. Like an email with a bad subject line will never get opened, a program with a bad title will never be attended.

Make your facility more welcoming. Lose the mirrors and widen the hallways or at least the walkway between equipment. Kill the overhead music. The combination of moving parts, interior lighting, and noise can be a deterrent for older adults.

Program Based on Physical Changes

Now is Their Time

Life expectancy is rising. A woman today who is 65 has an expectancy of 20.7 years and if she reaches 85 she had a life expectancy of 7.1 years. When a woman reaches 70 and experiences some loss of balance, vision, or a lack of stamina, and looks at her potential to live another 23 years, she’s motivated to take action. They’re waiting. Are you ready?

References

Smith, Aaron. "Older Adults and Technology Use." Pew Research Center Internet Science Tech RSS. N.p., 03 Apr. 2014. Web. 01 June 2016.

Gann, Carrie. "Knee Replacements Double in 10 Years, Study Says." ABC News. ABC News Network, 10 Feb. 2012. Web. 01 June 2016.

Weinstein, A. M., B. Rome, W. M. Reichmann, J. E. Collins, S. A. Burbine, T. S. Thornhill, J. J. Wright, J. N. Katz, and E. Losina. "How Many Americans Are Currently Living with Total Knee Replacement?" Abstract Online. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 12 Feb. 2012. Web. 01 June 2016.