This month, we’ve been writing a lot about a major shift happening in the senior living industry. The gist: Over the next decade, we’ll be marketing to fewer and fewer people from the Silent Generation and dramatically increasing our reach across the entire Boomer demographic. (The youngest Boomers turn 58 this year.)
A refresher about this demographic: Boomers are the “me generation.” They came of age during the tumultuous 60s and 70s. Think civil rights marches, war protests, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. No, not every Boomer’s experience included those things. But you get the idea. Their lives were different from their Depression-era parents.
Why does this matter, and why should senior living marketers take note? Well, when it comes to the future of independent living, memory care, and assisted living lead generation, you’re going to need new messaging. Because what worked for the Silent Generation won’t work for Boomers.
This, of course, brings up challenges. What should the new messaging be? As a whole, the senior living industry tends to be cautious. Messaging has always played it safe, talking up the positives while ignoring the reality of what we’re selling.
Our goal with this article is to get you thinking differently. We know that making a huge messaging shift won’t happen overnight. But as your community caters to more and more Boomers—particularly younger ones as well as Gen Xers, who are right behind them—you’re going to need to start talking about things you never talked about before.
Below are four concepts to discuss internally with your marketing and sales teams and—in some cases—the C-suite. Because this shift isn’t going to only affect your IL, MC, and assisted living lead generation. It’s also going to affect communities to their very core, from the layout of buildings to the amenities offered to everything in between.
Ready? Let’s get to it.
Think in terms of inclusion + diversity and show what your community is currently doing and what it’s committed to doing over the long haul.
Conversations around inclusion and diversity have reached a fever pitch in recent years, and for good reason. Representation matters, full stop. While this is a much larger conversation for senior living communities—one that will involve operations—it’s a conversation that needs to happen now (if it hasn’t started already).
Below is a short list of topics that communities should be discussing. From there, you need to adjust marketing communications accordingly.
- How does your community currently address I&D? (Does it address it?)
- When it comes to I&D, what is your community doing well? Where can it improve?
- Do you have an I&D officer on staff? If not, are there plans to get one and/or to hire a consultant?
- Have you done any research into how the demographics in your community will change over the next decade? How will you address these changes within your community? Within your marketing?
- What education needs to take place among staff (and possibly residents)?
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Remember, start having these discussions sooner rather than later. Because in the not-too-distant future, people will be doing searches on Google around specific phrases like “LGBT-friendly senior living.” It might not be happening a lot yet. But we predict it will happen—and sooner than most people think.
(Bonus: Check out what one of our clients—Arrow Senior Living—is doing to address I&D.)
Show how your community is tackling climate change.
Just as consumers are refusing to spend dollars with companies that don’t do their part in reducing carbon emissions, the same will hold true with Boomers choosing retirement communities.
Boomers care about the environment just as much as younger generations do. In fact, this article discusses a recent study that shows “older people are just as likely to support big changes to how we live in order to protect the environment.”
Presently, people search on “sustainable senior living” 30 times a month (and the phrase has very little competition). People search on the phrase “green senior living communities” 30 times a month as well. And these numbers are only going to increase.
To get started with this messaging, you can discuss current measures your community is taking. Think recycling programs, renewable energy (e.g., solar, wind), electric vehicles on campus, and so forth.
Because how your community is tackling climate change will influence Boomers’ buying decisions—and ultimately your IL, MC, and assisted living lead generation.
Embrace messaging that’s honest about what it means to be a widow, widower, and/or divorcee.
OK, we get it. Acknowledging death and divorce doesn’t sound like “fun and happy” messaging. But if your community truly offers respite from those things—and can find a way to discuss it authentically—it will work to your advantage. (For a little context, consider this: Pew Research says, as of 2015, ten out of every 1,000 people over the age of 50 are divorced.)
While topics like death and divorce have traditionally been considered taboo among polite society—and most certainly with the stoic members of the Silent Generation—Boomers are different. They’re more open to talking about these things, hearing about these things, and hoping for more.
The message of “you can find love or companionship in our community” doesn’t have to be explicitly stated, either. It can be implied through the stories you tell about residents who’ve found love on the second (or third or fourth) go-round. It can be implied by the stories you share on social media (like maybe this one from The New York Times about the joys and challenges of sex after 70). It can be implied in the events you hold, like Friday night dances or special Valentine’s Day dinners.
This leads us to our next point . . .
Don’t shy away from legitimate fears and tough subjects.
Let’s face it: Getting older isn’t all grandkid play dates and endless afternoon naps. People have legit worries and fears. Will they outlive their retirement? Will they die with dignity, or will it be a long protracted death? What happens to their pets if they die or become incapacitated? What happens if they lose a spouse? A child? A new companion they meet in your community?
Nope, these aren’t sexy topics. But they are REAL topics.
Now, we’re not suggesting you develop messaging that screams: “Our community is a great place to die!” But remember you’re talking to adults, not children. And Boomer adults at that. Boomers are smart and savvy. They don’t need sugarcoating.
And honest messaging doesn’t necessarily have to mean negative messaging. An example we often use: One of our clients runs a nonprofit life care community. Once you’re in, you’re in for life, even if your medical needs change or you outlive your retirement. Messaging that opens with “Worried you might outlive your retirement?” might induce legitimate discomfort in the person viewing the message. But the life care community offers a real solution—a positive to the negative.
Get an objective opinion from a trusted partner like us.
It’s an exciting time to be in our industry. But it can also be stressful—and easy to fall behind the curve instead of staying ahead of it. We love working with clients on this “next generation” of messaging for senior living. Interested to know more? Let’s chat.