April 23, 2014

How to build authentic relationships with boomers and seniors

In these cost conscious times you may find yourself being a little vague about the cost of retirement suites when talking to seniors and their families; you may want to show them the many benefits of moving into your community first. But whenever I talk to seniors about retirement homes, their biggest complaint is not being told about pricing at all or not being given specifics.

Seniors want the straight goods about pricing —in person, in print and online. They don’t want to hear that “it varies”. If you are upfront about costs then they will appreciate your honesty and respect you for respecting them. That builds trust and trust results in sales. It may take time but eventually your candor will be rewarded.

I’ve also engaged quite a bit with boomers and that has resulted in what I like to call the “three-legged stool” of boomer interests.

The three “legs” of the stool are:

  •  Money: It’s such a scarce commodity for this crowd so any new way to make it, save it or make it last, is irresistible.
  •  Relationships: Good relationships including dating ones, are critically important to boomers. They want to feel vital and desirable even though they’re getting older.
  •  Health: If you won’t have a lot of money to spend on illness as you age, then you’re going to be pretty obsessed with getting—and staying—healthy right now.

These are the priorities of most boomers and the things they are most interested in hearing about.  Therefore they should be the issues of most concern to your retirement residence.

  • How can you help with the financing issue?
  • How can you support that need for healthy relationships?
  • How can you help maintain or improve senior and boomer health?

You may already provide these resources to your residents but if the boomer can’t afford to move there or isn’t interested, you must find a way to bring these resources to them.

Offer money solutions: If they can’t afford your community and you can’t lower your prices or work out a different payment structure, reach out to their community instead. Offer something of value such as classes on financial literacy or bring in successful entrepreneurs to talk about second career strategies. Partner with key people in the financial field and offer these courses at your local community centre, high school, library, or in a meeting room at City Hall.

Get in the dating game: So many boomers are single and the great majority of those are divorced. Long and unhappy marriages result in long, unhappy memoires and it can be very hard to build up the courage to try again. Get in the game with courses and programs to help booomers heal their wounds and embrace dating and meeting new people. Partner with local art galleries, clubs, travel companies or special interest groups and create events that people want to attend.

Offer affordable health and fitness resources: Your retirement community may offer fabulous fitness programs but if the boomer can’t afford them you must find another way to let them have that experience but at a lower price point. Partner with other professionals such as a fitness centre and offer valuable courses in wellness and healthy aging but present them in a way that is engaging. Boomers think they’re younger than they really are, so consider targeting a wider age range, say from 40+.

We must be the mirror in which boomers see themselves reflected. If these are their issues of greatest concern, they must be ours as well—and in a way that benefits boomers first.

It’s all about building an authentic relationship over time, with a focus on making the boomers’ challenges easier. That relationship must take into account the fact that boomers will not be talked down to or patronized; they will take charge of their own destiny, thank you very much.  Your role is to be open and to listen—and to make sure those stools are as sturdy as possible.

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About Kathy Barthel

Kathy Barthel is the print and online editor for Dialogue Plus and Comfort Life magazines and websites, published by Our Kids Media.
Kathy is a twenty-year media industry professional. She has worked in print, online and television and has created or edited a variety of content for major media outlets including CTVNews.ca, CBC.ca/news, MSN.ca, TV GUIDE, YTV and W Network. As an online video editor Kathy was a part of the team that launched MSN.ca. As a former photo editor she has directed photo shoots in Canada and the United States.

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