Learn how to communicated with older people to target them effectively, says Debbie Marshall managing director of Silver Travel Advisor

Earlier this year, I met the youthful sales team of a publication primarily targeting the 60-plus audience, and was given a 12-page guide that they had produced to promote a wide variety of age-related products.

Insurance of many varieties was featured in abundance, as well as a selection of promotions for mobility aids, incontinence pads, retirement plans and funeral packages.

Not really an uplifting read, apart from the promises made by the advertisements for anti-ageing creams.

However, the main problem with the guide was that it appeared to have been produced by a team that understood little of the market it was trying to reach.

Written in a tiny font, it had messages that were both patronising and over-jolly, and with imagery of a perfect ‘silver’ couple – luscious hair, barely a wrinkle in sight, slim, tanned and fit.

Indeed, the model stepping out of the accessible bath, her towel draped across her smooth shoulders, would not have looked out of place on a catwalk.

Sharpen your marketing

This is the kind of marketing that spurs our mission at Silver Travel Advisor to encourage the travel industry to better understand the older market and what makes it tick.

While most people who work in marketing and advertising are in their 20s and 30s, that’s no excuse for not taking the time to understand the older generation and how to reach it effectively.

So here are a few tips and suggestions:

• Eyesight starts to diminish, on average, after the age of 40. So don’t make people have to reach for their glasses or magnifying glass. A 12-point font is more legible not only to your target audience but also to anyone else reading it. Make this your minimum font size for brochures, website and documentation.

• Use interesting photos of real older people having genuine holiday experiences – not stereotypes, 
and not perfect models.

• Use a tone of voice that is positive and honest. Later life is to be enjoyed. There may be some challenges, but address them positively and speak to older people as adults, not children.

• Take care with style and grammar. Older people have been formally educated in the use of the apostrophe and they will notice when you get it wrong. Avoid teenage abbreviations, slang and jargon.

• Present facts clearly and do not be afraid of detail. Older people have the time to read and enjoy long articles, and want to know more.

• Older people are becoming more digitally savvy, but they’re still heavy users of traditional media. Newspapers, magazines, brochures and leaflets are read, retained and shared.

• Ensure that your website is clear and easy to navigate. Avoid the colour combinations that are harder to distinguish with an ageing eye. For instance, blue and green become more difficult to tell apart than red, yellow and orange. Ensure sales teams are trained in speaking more slowly and, above all, in listening.

• Facebook is becoming increasingly important, but other social media have low reach among older people.

• Be aware that memory loss can become an issue.

• And lastly, the first rule of marketing: know your customer.