These days, there is a lot of talk about older consumers. Pick up a newspaper or magazine, and you will read about them. Turn on your TV or radio, and you will hear about them. Or go online to YouTube, and you will see a site filled with videos and stories about this group. Older consumers are affecting every segment of society, from health care to housing, food choices to fitness.
So, who is the older adult?
The answer to this question is crucial to your ability to meet older consumers' needs and expectations. It is the backbone for your sales and marketing efforts. And it dictates the types of facilities you build, the staff you hire, the equipment you purchase, and the operational procedures and policies you implement.
The challenge, however, is that one answer does not exist. Today's older consumers are not a homogenous market; they are as diverse as their needs and abilities. Consider, for example, individuals who have each had a lifetime of experiences and the varied behaviors they have developed as a result. Now, add their physical and cognitive abilities—athleticism, fitness, independence and frailty levels. Just these few elements contribute significantly to the uniqueness of this market segment, as personal experiences, behaviors and abilities affect everything from where and how someone lives, to an individual's health status and quality of life.
Here are some scenarios to get you thinking:
- What programs would you offer an athletic man in his early 60s compared to a frail woman in her mid-70s or an independent (but deconditioned) man in his late 80s?
- How would your sales conversation shift to address their differing needs?
- How might your club setting need to change to make them feel more comfortable? If you are already mentally ticking off the popular 10 a.m.-3 p.m. program time slot, keep in mind that many older adults today work, so that time slot could have low appeal.
These questions give you a taste of why the older-adult market will challenge your creativity, strategic thinking, planning and implementation processes, as well as why one-size-fits-all solutions fail miserably with these consumers. To address this group, you will first need to establish what individuals want and need. Then you can start thinking about what kinds of products or services you’ll create and deliver to meet the expectations of this large, diverse market.
To proceed, you might want to bring together a group of experts in aging: the older consumers themselves. Ask this focus group what they like and don't like. The answers you get will be as diverse as the market. Then it is up to you to decide: Do you serve all older consumers, or do you segment the market by addressing those you can best serve today (shifting other segments to future planning)?
One final thought to ponder during this process: Is a lack of diversity in your offerings limiting your success? If it isn't, keep doing what you are doing. If it is, however, isn't it time to change? Share your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.