Now is The Time to Market Your Senior Community to Baby Boomers
Older adults are gradually feeling more confident about safely moving back out into the community. Most of those over age 65 have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine (79% as of April 13) and more than half (63%) were fully vaccinated as of April 13. That’s opened the door for senior communities to begin opening their own doors to those considering the move.
One of the most powerful outcomes from the pandemic among Boomers is the realization that living in their own homes isolated them and made them more vulnerable. We expect that COVID’s well-publicized devastation of the senior population will make some Boomers entertain the idea of moving to a senior community earlier than they expected.
Two years ago, most people in their 70s and even 80s told themselves they’d move to senior communities “someday.” They waited until a health crisis hit their spouses or their friends to bring the idea to the front of their minds. As a result, the average age of senior living residents hovered around 84. We believe that number will drop over the next five years as those who lived through the pandemic look to their futures. We expect many who previously waited for a dramatic life change to start actively looking into a move.
What does this mean for marketers and sales associates at senior communities? That now is the time to reach out to these Boomers. The last 12 months has forced everyone involved in senior living to focus inward – assuring residents and their loved ones of the safety and security of living in a senior community. But now is the time to focus outward.
Here are a few tips to hone your marketing activities:
Emphasize the freedom to enjoy life with fewer responsibilities
Boomers were often faulted by their younger colleagues for their over-devotion to work. Facetime for Boomers meant staying at work (in your boss’ face) long enough to be applauded for your work ethic. Retirement may be the first time Boomers allow themselves the freedom to do something other than work. Communications that emphasize the ability to take up new interests, volunteer or exercise when and where they want will appeal to the Boomers’ need to constantly “do something.”
Most communities address these needs by emphasizing their variety of on-campus amenities and activities. Of course, that makes sense. But after a while these messages all sound the same. Every community touts their gyms and clubs. Instead of putting all your marketing “eggs” in that one message “basket,” think about emphasizing what Boomers lose by moving to your community – lawn care, driveway shoveling, and worries about unexpected home repairs. Without these, Boomers have the freedom do what they want when they want. They can take up hobbies and try new things because the care and feeding of a house is no longer sucking up their free time.
Feed the Need for Connection
One of the things that the pandemic made crystal clear, especially to older adults, was the need for personal connection. Seniors who used to fill their days with visits to friends, connections through volunteering, and family have been isolated from all of that. And, as more and more are vaccinated, they are becoming more comfortable seeing people. That means that these previously routine activities have taken on a celebratory nature. While pre-pandemic the face-to-face book club meeting and the drop-in from grandchildren was a joy, now it’s an occasion.
Even before the pandemic, retirement caused Boomers to lament the connections they had in the workplace. Because work was such a key part of Boomers’ lives, many have felt the loss of their workplace friendships acutely. Marketing messages that focus on the “community” on senior living campuses will appeal to Boomers mourning the loss of workplace friends.
Build your messages on the idea that making these personal connections is easier in a senior community. Emphasize how on-campus clubs and activities give residents a built-in trove of peers. If they want to discuss world affairs with other like-minded people, it’s right down the hall. If they want to add yoga to their fitness routines, they can find classes and a whole new group of people who share that interest.
Shift Communication From Sales to Thought Leadership
To gain the trust of Boomers, shift your messaging from a heavy sales pitch to a demonstration of thought leadership. Cultivate trust with blog posts featuring “news you can use” and social media posts that share a bit of knowledge. Instead of pushing an upcoming seminar on diabetes, do a blog post that offers diabetic-friendly recipes. It can end with a link to sign up for that seminar such as “Want to learn more? Join us on June 1 for a virtual and in-person cooking demonstration by our community’s own Chef Christopher.” It’s all about swapping out the hard sell for useable information that showcases the knowledge that makes your community appealing.
Focus on Review Platforms
Review sites have a huge impact on the decisions Boomers make and a move to a retirement community is probably one of the biggest decisions they have had to make. We know that 81% of people do in-depth research before making purchases that are expensive or will have a lifelong impact, according to Retirement Living. Choosing a senior community certainly falls into both of these categories.
Star ratings on review sites are especially important. When star ratings drop to a three, prospects for a senior community won’t even go to the website. And for Boomers to feel confident in any business, almost half of them (48%) need a four-star rating.
In the past, Google reviews were a critical part of Boomers’ decision-making processes, but during COVID Google My Business shifted to respond to the needs of the pandemic. Consumers couldn’t leave reviews or engage in any Q & A’s with senior living communities. Until that changes, you’d be wise to shift your focus to one of the other major review platforms, like Yelp or Facebook. Facebook, especially, is popular with Boomers. According to Statista, 78% of Boomers use it.
Bring the Community to the Prospects
While many older Americans have been vaccinated, don’t expect them to come running back for in-person visits to your community in 2021. Bring the community to them with real-time virtual events through platforms like Facebook Live. Or video tours of the campus that include interviews with residents.
To bring your community’s best into a prospect’s living room make sure your website is open, engaging, informative, and current. Given Google’s ever-changing algorithms, you’ll need to do a full website redesign every two to three years, according to Website Strategist BJ Flagg, president of Nurenu Brand Marketing. She reminds senior community marketers to check the analytics on their sites frequently. Those metrics can tell you when it’s time to re-evaluate and make some updates to a site to capture Boomers’ attention and turn them from prospects to residents.
Make The Most of Boomers’ Reinvigorated Optimism
The vaccine has brought a new sense of hope and positivity to older Americans. For the first time in over a year, they are looking to the future with a sense of confidence. They have experienced the downside of social isolation and felt hemmed in by health concerns. Now is the time for senior communities to highlight what they bring to their lives – friends, mental stimulation, healthy lifestyles and safety.