Writing for the senior living marketplace? Hit the “Big 3.”

By Brandon Stickney

A zillion or so Baby Boomers are following The Greatest Generation into lifestyles of bliss in senior living communities. As our country gets older, the elder (or mature) population just can’t wait to shed the tiresome, expensive burdens of home ownership for the greenest pasture of all, the mature lifestyle community.

Right? Maybe.

The United States gets older while Social Security wrings its hands with worry. Marketers—especially copywriters—for senior lifestyle communities (or Continuing Care Retirement Communities [CCRCs]) face the challenge of being pithy while extolling the numerous—one might hope obvious and inherent—virtues of our grandparents and parents leaving the old homestead behind for a new time of personal growth without elder worry. Forget the chores and home maintenance, forget “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” For a fee, our seniors can finally, after all these years, do what they’ve always wanted to do at a CCRC.

The client, the owner of the senior housing community, relies solely on the marketer initially get this point across. It’s up to the marketer to make the phones ring, so the apartment or home sales manager can take over in person and close the sale.

Too often, however, the marketer forgets that the target audience is part of a generation that fought tooth and nail to keep the homes they are now encouraging them to give up; in bad times they skipped meals to pay the mortgage. This generation has been through all of the sales come-ons, too. Today’s senior lifestyle communications must get to the heart of the matter. Quick. And that’s where the “Big 3” come in.

There are three main points that every senior living communication must subtly address for the decision-making seniors and their adult children (who often weigh in heavily on the final choice)—the main reasons why seniors make the decision to join such a community:

1) The Event: After age 60, most mature adults encounter, or see their loved one(s) face, “The Event,” which ranges anywhere from a bad fall to a stroke. For whatever reason, on that day, no one was there to provide help. They may have been calling for help for hours, fearing the worst. The takeaway? Senior housing has solutions.

2) Loneliness: As seniors get older, they lose friends to out-of-town moves, long-term hospitalization, and death. When they were younger, they “lost” friends to marriage. But sometimes they came back. In the 4th quarter of life, the social contacts seniors lose don’t come back. The takeaway? Senior lifestyle communities are full of new friends their age, and young people (staff) who really care.

3) The Financials: Is it really a wise decision, in this market, to sell the family home? What about the kids taking it over? What about Dad’s woodshop? What about this, that? I’m too set in my ways to move. In other words, “No thanks. Take me off your mailing list.” The takeaway? Senior living is a sound financial decision.

The “Big 3” ideas can either help seniors choose to stay put, or choose mature lifestyle communities.  They are so blunt, even possibly demeaning when pondered, it makes them very difficult to address in copy advertising the senior living community – and may even scare the client.

So, in most marketing mailers, print ads, radio and web/blog copy, you see copywriters emphasizing the other, softer benefits of these communities: no maintenance, full access to healthcare services, lots of amenities and the idea that, “at my age, I can own a ‘new home or apartment.” Finally: affordable extravagance.

However, The Event, Loneliness, and Financials must be addressed directly, in a positive manner, when the copywriter and creative director work together to address the specifics that make each senior living community unique and attractive. The visuals of seniors sitting, reading books and playing golf may be tired (unless you’re marketing to older “assisted living” candidates); creative means creative.

You’ll get it through real teamwork—the creative director and copywriter collaborating. Too often today, the two are in separate rooms on the opposite side of the building.

When the main reasons for buying into senior community living are ignored, the marketing communication devices will miss the mark. Successful selling to seniors means delivering the goods up front, honestly, and at every opportunity.

Brandon Stickney interviewed many potential and current members of senior living communities and CCRCs on their reasons for choosing, and not choosing, this way of life, so he could successfully write for ad agencies, CCRCs, and new senior lifestyle paradigms.