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91 and surfing the web

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Tuesday October 2, 2007 )

I received an email today from a subscriber and I had to re-read a section of it as I couldn’t believe my eyes. The sender was 91 years of age. I was totally blown away!

In all my years in training mature age folks about the web and in general online communications, I’ve never had the privilege of conversing with someone in this age range via the Internet. More power to him!

.. and I’m sure he’s not alone.

According to some stats I dug up from last year; in the USA alone, 14 million senior citizens aged 65 and older were online regularly. That’s around half of the entire age group. Over the last year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that figure has grown substantially.

Rapidly fading are the days of the mature age technophobe and as I’ve mentioned many times in the past – we need to keep this in mind in designing our sites and marketing our wares.

Personally, I get a little tired of people looking barely old enough to shave (I’m only in my late 30’s now) extolling the virtues of products and services that are important in our lives or to our businesses. It impacts on the credibility and sometimes on the perceived usability factor. If you’re pegging a service with mature age appeal using college kid pics; you may be setting up a wall from the outset in keeping the attention of this group.

When it comes to imagery, unless your site, goods and services are youth focused, I suggest using photos of people who look as though they’ve had some serious life experience; been around the block a few times. I don’t mean people looking old and bedraggled like me, just something that a broad group of people can identify with – perhaps an energetic and healthy early-mid-late 30’s as a happy medium.

If you are marketing to seniors, be very careful not to stereotype them as frail folks kicking back and taking it easy. Increasingly, mature age people are remaining very, very active and see themselves as being much younger than their biological years might indicate.

Never underestimate the size of the market to be tapped when it comes to seniors – collectively, they possess much of the disposable wealth in any country. Remember also that these people have been exposed to marketing blurbs for decades longer than the late teens and 20-somethings – and have likely been burned a few times; so they’ll likely be a little more cautious.

I tend to think of it this way – while young ‘uns may need to be impressed with zap and bing, older folks need to feel respected for their accumulated wisdom; address their needs rather than yelling at them what their needs are. For example, focus on functionality and ease of use rather than the “cool” factor. Something I’ve suggested to site owners in the past is having a 50/50 type home page where one side draws in the younger folks and the other, mature age people; and then having sub-pages with content to match the groups.


Marketing to seniors

Images and your web site – stock photo resources


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