Want to Reach Most Older Americans? Go Offline

Most older Americans seem to be sitting out the social media revolution, something for communications/public relations/marketing professionals to keep in mind as we help our clients reach out to various audiences.

The findings of a new Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey released this week indicate that only 40% of Americans ages 65-74 use the Internet daily, compared with three-quarters of adults ages 18-30.

Think about that. Six out of 10 older adults are unlikely to read blogs, check Facebook, Tweet or read Tweets, view online videos, listen to podcasts, or even read e-mail on a daily basis.

Before you dismiss older adults as an insignificant demographic group, consider these facts from the Administration on Aging: There are nearly 38 million Americans age 65+ according to the 2007 census — an 11% increase in 10 years. One in every eight Americans is 65 or older.

It’s true that the 65+ population of the future will be quite different from the current group. Baby boomers have largely embraced technology, so in the years ahead the percentage of older adults online is likely to increase. And certainly, not every older American eschews technology. In fact, I have a few Facebook friends who are over the age of 65.

But to ignore the six out of 10 who don’t use social media is foolish. This has implications across the board. More Americans work beyond the age of 65, which means some employees haven’t gotten on board the social media bandwagon. Many organizations consider retirees an important stakeholder group, but reaching out to them through a website might not necessarily be the most effective way. Large numbers of older Americans are shareholders; what’s the best way to keep them informed and engaged? Companies that market to senior adults might want to add other media to that online campaign.

This is another reminder that we need to include online and social media as components of the overall communication mix, but to remember that they are not the only way to reach audiences today.


5 Responses

  1. Great post. And one of the major reasons we still send our company newspaper to the homes of all of our employees and retirees. Not only do many of them not get information online, but their spouses, who mostly get their information via the newspaper, don’t either. And they are still intimately attached to the timber company they worked at for 40 years.

    • Retirees are one of the most overlooked — and potentially one of the most important — stakeholder groups for companies. At one time the senior adult demographic was the fastest-growing among online groups. But fast-growing does not necessarily mean great in numbers compared to other groups, as this research attests.

  2. Bless you Robert, for reminding the world that there are other important valuable groups besides the Twittering Twenties . . . Hmmm, that sounds like a great title for a Musical.

    Someone should grab that immediately.

  3. Oh Robert! That is hilarious, and very clever!

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