Digitally Engaging the Elderly: Why & How You Should Target This Patient Demographic

April 14, 2015
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Today’s seniors grew up with traditional media. Millennials grew up with digital media. Therefore, seniors should continue to receive traditional advertisements, while Millennials and younger audiences receive the brunt of digital ads. If you think there’s something wrong with this statement, you’d be right.

Today’s seniors grew up with traditional media. Millennials grew up with digital media. Therefore, seniors should continue to receive traditional advertisements, while Millennials and younger audiences receive the brunt of digital ads. If you think there’s something wrong with this statement, you’d be right. Despite this, many healthcare marketers have decided to exclude seniors as an audience for their digital marketing efforts.Digital Marketing, Healthcare Marketing

Though younger Americans have been quicker to adopt digital technologies, seniors are following close behind. eMarketer estimates that 30.5 million US consumers ages 65 and older will use the internet this year, representing 63.7% of all residents in that age range. By 2019, penetration will near 71%. When it comes to activities performed online, the Pew Internet and American Life found that 66% of seniors use the internet to look up medical/healthcare information.

If you’ve decided to eliminate this audience from your healthcare marketing strategy due to your assumption that seniors aren’t digitally engaged, it’s time to rethink. A national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project indicates:

For ages 50-64:

  • 71% seek healthare information online
  • 60% search for healthcare information on Facebook

For ages 65+

  • 58% seek healthcare information online
  • 43% search for healthcare information on Facebook

Seniors are demanding digital. Accenture Research reveals that 67% of Americans 64 and older think that accessing their medical information online is very or somewhat important. Accenture’s study also discovered the following:

  • 83% of US seniors think they should have full access to their electronic health records—only 28% percent actually do.
  • 68% of seniors say it is somewhat or very important to request prescription refills electronically, and nearly 46% can do so.
  • 62% of seniors believe it is somewhat or very important to be able to book appointments online.
  • Over half (53%) say it is somewhat important or very important to email with providers.

Seniors are seeking out medical resources and information online, and as their habits evolve, so too should your healthcare marketing strategy. Here’s what you need to do to effectively attract and engage seniors with your digital healthcare assets.

The New ‘Word-of-Mouth’ Advertising

You can do this by creating valuable, engaging content designed for social sharing. Whenever a user shares your content, they’re endorsing your brand to their friends and family. According to the American Osteopathic Association, 59.8% of seniors use recommendations from friends and family to find physicians.

Provide the Information Seniors Want

In its study, the American Academy of Family Physician found that half of the US seniors it surveyed in March 2012 felt there wasn’t a single online resource where they could find highly credible health information, including information about prescription drugs for the elderly (14%) and preventative medical care for seniors (13%).

You must approach the senior market the same way you do your other markets. Determine what digital information they want, or more importantly need, and then introduce these topics into your content and advertising.

Make it Easy

This may seem obvious, but you must ensure that landing pages, advertisements, emails and other promotional materials are simple, easy to read and visually appealing. Your website should also be designed with accessibility in mind. Will visitors with impairments or disabilities be able to easily navigate through your site? If not, you may need to work with your software development team to integrate accessibility.

Don’t discount seniors when devising your healthcare digital marketing strategy. This online audience is growing at a steady rate and is coming to expect more from its healthcare providers. Failing to provide seniors with the digital resources and services they’re looking for will be a costly mistake for your organization.