Tapping into the senior market

SO YOU WANT TO TAP INTO THE SENIOR market? Good move. It's the fastest-growing market segment in the country -- and the largest, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all consumers today.

But when you think of the "senior market," what comes to mind? Before answering, consider this: The MacArthur Foundation Studies of Aging in America discovered that to be "old" today does not necessarily mean to be sick and dependent. In fact, in 1994, 89 percent of men age 65-74 reported no disabilities and were fully functional. Another 73 percent of those age 75-84 fell into this same category, as did 40 percent of men age 85-plus -- a far cry from the typical image of afghans, rocking chairs and senility. In other words, today's seniors are living longer, healthier, more active lives, without assistance.

So, if you envision college graduates, health club members and savvy consumers when asked about the senior market, you're on the road to launching a successful marketing campaign to this group.

Not all seniors are created equal
What interests a 55-year-old adult may not appeal to someone in his or her mid-70s. Ethnicity, income level and environmental considerations also should play a role in your marketing strategy.

If you find it hard to pin down the seniors in your audience, one surefire way to reach them is to address life stages (i.e., filling the void that comes with retirement, planning a dream vacation, selling a home now that the children are grown or, an all-time favorite, spending time with grandchildren). The Senior Network, a Connecticut-based marketing group, says that people in their 50s go through more life stages than any other age group.

Regardless of how you classify your senior market, though, don't underestimate its power. If you stretch the truth, use hard-sell tactics or patronize, chances are you will lose your credibility within the market. Just give the facts and wait for results -- loyalty from this market comes with trust and time.

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