Seniors have gotten a bum rap over their use of technology. Countless memes, jokes, and snarky texts would have you believe grandpa and grandma couldn’t handle modern tech if their life depended on it. Use social media? Impossible. Text? Never gonna happen. Right? WRONG.

Let’s back up for a moment. It’s an understatement to say 2020 was a challenge for the senior living industry. Supply and demand issues aside, COVID-19 had a direct (and negative) impact on residency rates across the industry. Marketing teams suddenly had to pivot when their usual playbooks were thrown out the window. Luncheons and personal tours became impossible and undesirable. Families and prospective residents reconsidered their plans for moving to a senior community. Agile teams quickly realized technology was their friend. Technology?

The unexpected combo of technology and seniors made a difference to the communities who embraced it. Not convinced? Like many other Sabal clients, Mather and Kendal pivoted by focusing on their digital efforts. The results? Impressive. For instance, Mather is seeing 70% of their traffic coming from mobile devices.

If you want to remain competitive, you need to understand who your audience is and how to reach them.

The Times They Are a’Changin’ 

While senior living occupancy rates have been falling for the past decade, many operators are looking ahead to 2030 when all Boomers will be age 65 or older. The oldest of this group will be 85. Baby boomers are your immediate audience. Their parents are your current senior living residents. Boomers are the active adults considering upscale communities designed for seniors.

Boomers have been breaking the rules and making waves all their lives. They dropped out before they began their careers. They gave a voice to women who marched, picketed, and moved into the workforce in record numbers. Boomer grew into their role as doers, and eventually, as leaders. The result? They broke more rules. Boomers mixed music genres, shifted cultural norms, and demanded more choices. And they embraced 8-tracks, cassette tapes, and CDs without missing a beat.

They’re living healthier lives and that means longer lives. They’re pushing back the retirement age for a multitude of reasons, not the least because a significant percentage cannot afford to retire. But beyond budget woes, they choose to stay active. In a given year, 3.8 million Boomers turn 65 but only 2.2 million retire.

I Did It My Way

Frank sang it, but Boomers lived it. Released in 1969, My Way is quintessentially an American song. The lyrics are all about me, taking stock of my life, and celebrating that through it all, I did it my way.  This generation has been all about doing things their way. And they’re tackling their Golden Years in new ways as well.

One of the many lessons we learned in 2020 was that this audience uses technology. Even before the pandemic, Boomers adopted technology at the same rate as Gen X. Boomers use the internet, email, search engines, and social media. Smartphone usage was 68% in 2019, but that’s not surprising given aging eyes, small screens, and smaller keyboards.

As a result of COVID-19, Boomers upped their use of technology because it offered safety advantages. They embraced online shopping and delivery services much in the same way they increased their use of telehealth options. Before the pandemic, only 10% used telehealth, but last year that rose to 48%. Nearly 71% have turned to digital options, including apps and chatbots, to resolve issues. They also enthusiastically began using curbside delivery and online shopping, sparking a 431% increase for their demographic. They stayed safe, enjoyed the convenient ordering process, and appreciated the human interaction when they picked up their order.

Age isn’t Just a Number

Baby Boomers are rewriting the handbook for navigating their retirement years. And that means senior living needs to revamp their marketing strategies. Under their stewardship, Boomers changed American culture. Their political activism protesting the Vietnam war sparked a movement that never stopped questioning the government.  They celebrated the first Earth Day and have raised environmental awareness. They marched for human rights, civil rights, and women’s rights. And they used music as an agent of change.

But for every cultural norm they changed, they tend to be traditional, with highly developed work ethics. Once they shed their love beads, they moved into the workforce and brought about a shift from top-down to consensus management. They bought into the American Dream, amassing more personal wealth than other generations.

Are you focused on meeting the needs of this generation or recycling the marketing copy you’ve been using to woo their parents? If you’d like to reach Boomers more effectively, we hope you’ll reach out to Sabal Group. From Boomers to Gen Z, our data scientists have the information you can use to reach your ideal audience.