How NOT To Market Senior Housing

Happy Senior apartments complex marketing ideas


The senior consumer is changing, and senior housing is changing alongside them. So too, will senior real estate marketing be challenged to keep pace with the shifting priorities of senior consumers. So far, marketing directed at adults over 55 has been lacking—this group is either ignored entirely or treated to messaging that doesn’t match their attitudes or priorities. Today on ThreshNews, we’re identifying some of the common shortcomings of senior living marketing today in order to inspire better apartment complex marketing ideas for your senior living community.

Before we jump in, a quick disclaimer: There are several types of senior living, including Active, Independent, Assisted, and Memory Care. In this article, we’ll be focusing primarily on marketing DON’Ts for Active Living communities, though many of these apply to other senior living communities as well.

Now without further ado, let’s talk about how NOT to market your senior living community.

Ignore the Online Experience

In spite of evidence to the contrary, some marketers operate under the incorrect assumption that today’s seniors don’t spend time online or rely on technology to make purchase decisions. In reality, seniors are more tech-savvy than ever, with 88% of adults aged 50-64 and 73% of adults over 65 identifying themselves as internet users.

Today’s target audience for senior living communities will rely on online searches, online reviews, digital ads, and your property website to help make their final housing decision much the same way younger generations do. As you market your fantastic senior living community, it’s worth making sure you have strong SEO, a healthy online reputation, and a user-friendly website that encourages trust and helps your audience get the information they need quickly and easily.

Don’t Bother With Social Media

Most seniors have adopted social media, particularly Facebook. Many seniors use Twitter and Instagram as well, but Facebook reigns supreme for its focus on fostering connections with family, friends, and acquaintances both current and past. To get specific, 72% of American adults between the ages of 50 and 64 were on Facebook in 2016, as were 62% over 65. As you may already know, this also means that seniors between the ages of 50 and 70 respond well to Facebook advertising. After all, 15% of users in this age range spend 11+ hours per week on the site.

Assume Someone Else Is Making Decisions For Them

While many seniors may have adult family members or friends helping them make a final housing decision, most adults over 55 are still playing a major role in this decision even if they’re not making it completely independently. No one appreciates being talked about rather than talked to, so when you’re building your website and running ad campaigns, we recommend taking special care not to exclude your potential residents from your messaging.

If you’re marketing for an Independent or Assisted Living community, feel free to take this advice with a grain of salt. In these cases, it may make sense to run ads that target the families of potential residents and include messaging on your property website that is directed to them as well. If you’re marketing for a Memory Care community, much of your messaging may directly address family, friends, or caregivers of potential residents. But regardless of what sort of senior living community you’re marketing, it’s smart to include messaging that will appeal directly to potential residents, not just those who care for them.

Focus On Dependence

Many seniors are very independent, and those who do need some assistance would prefer to focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do. Some of the amenities of your senior living community may make life easier for folks dealing with the effects of aging, but there’s a way to talk about these amenities without risking condescending to or infantilizing your audience. 

We recommend focusing on how your amenities will empower residents to do and experience more and avoiding messaging that focuses on getting seniors the “help they need.” This is especially true for Active and Independent Living communities, but you may find it less essential for Assisted Living or Memory Care services—as always, use your best judgment. You know your community best.

Assume They’re Ready To “Slow Down”

The label “senior” encompasses adults at many different stages in life and with varying levels of activity. Adults 55 and above, especially the Boomers and Gen Xers who are just transitioning into this age range, are not intending to slow down anytime soon. Instead, they tend to see this next chapter as an exciting chance for something new—new experiences, new opportunities, and new beginnings. 

Marketing that suggests a slower pace of life may be appealing to some, but it will not have wide appeal for young retirees or pre-retirees in the 55+ group. Instead, we recommend focusing on added value, novel experiences, and active communities.

Address Them as a Population Rather Than As Individuals

This one sounds obvious, but it’s especially important in a world where seniors are so often ignored or erased, and when they’re not, they appear as caricatures of old age—feeble, domestic, or stuck-in-their-ways. Every senior deserves to be treated as a worthy individual, and there’s so much opportunity to surprise and delight with personalized marketing efforts. Keep in mind that your on-site staff is a key part of your marketing strategy, and personal interactions are your most powerful marketing opportunities.

Take special care during in-person interactions and follow-up communications to find out what each individual prospect is looking for, and avoid making assumptions about what they need or want out of an apartment community. Focus on the aspects of your community that are perfect for them, not on how your community is great for seniors in general.

Make Them Feel “Old”

By now, you get the gist that the senior audience won’t appreciate being treated like they’re less capable, less active, or less unique (but you knew that already). Many adults over 55, especially those just beginning to look for senior housing, do not view themselves as “old” and are not at a stage in their lives where they want to slow down, do less, or disconnect.

The interesting (and fruitful) challenge we face as marketers is to strike the right balance of youthful energy and mature dignity. We must avoid implications of elderly senescence as much as we avoid implications of youthful inexperience, instead finding a middle path that brings age, growth, novelty, and activity all under the same conceptual roof. In other words, we must develop new marketing strategies that meet today’s seniors where they’re at, and abandon outdated stereotypes that inform some of our worst senior marketing instincts.

Looking for more advice on how to market your senior living community? Our team is more than happy to help! Chat with a Threshold team member today to see how we can put our expertise to work for you.

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